“STOP corruption and increase revenue earnings.”
This, according to newly installed Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapena, was President Rodrigo Duterte’s marching orders to him as he formally took over the reins at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Wednesday.
Lapena said he would implement a one-strike policy, saying that he will dismiss those accused of corruption following a validation process.
He would also start his term with a clean slate, using incumbent officials fully knowledgeable with the work in the bureau.
Lapena said he would abolish the Command Center (ComCen) because it was not in the law. It was created by virtue of an order issued by former Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.
Comcen, headed by Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambala, controls and approves all issuances of alert order on questionable shipments.
Gambala, a (ret.) Army Capt.,is one of four appointees of Faeldon at the BOC. Like Faeldon, all are retired military officers. The others are:
* (ret.) Army Capt. Milo Maestrecampo who was appointed import assessment service director;
* (ret.) Navy Lieutenant James Layug who was appointed port operation service director and head of the special studies and project development committee;
* (ret.) Col. Alvin Ebreo who was appointed director for legal service, part of the BOC’s special operating unit.
All were classmates at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Marilag” Class of 1995. They were members of the Magdalo group, which staged the 2003 Oakwood mutiny to oust then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for allegedly allowing corruption to thrive in the military.
Lapena said that he would assign fresh faces in some offices that had been corrupted.
He added: “No gifts or pasalubong.”
Lapena replaced Faeldon who resigned amid allegations of corruption, highlighted by the illegal entry into the country of P6.4 billion worth of “shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride) under the very nose of the BOC.
Faeldon was also accused of accepting P100 million as a “welcome gift” when he assumed the top post in 2016. Faeldon has since denied the allegation by Sen. Panfilo Lacson in a recent privilege speech. YSABEL PADUA