Lacson hopes new Customs chief won’t suffer Lapena’s fate but opposition questions transfer
SEN. Panfilo Lacson on Friday expressed hope that retired Gen. Leonardo Rey Guerrero would “not suffer the same fate” of outgoing Customs chief Isidro Lapeña.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday announced the removal of Lapeña as head of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) amid the investigation on the reported smuggling of P11 billion worth of “shabu” or methamphetamine hydrochloride.
Lapeña was replaced by Guerrero, currently Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) chief and a former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The President moved Lapeña as head of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).
“I hope retired Gen. Guerrero can fill in the big boots left by Lapeña but not suffer the same fate as he did,” Lacson said in a text message.
“It may well be a promotion in rank and position, but definitely a demotion in trust and confidence,” he said.
“It’s a pity because save for the big shabu shipment that got away, apparently due to collusion between the drug syndicate and some low level Customs officials, former Commissioner Lapeña was doing a good job proven by consistently exceeding the Bureau’s target collections,” he said.
Opposition Senators Antonio Trillanes 4th and Francis Pangilinan questioned the President’s motive in “promoting” Lapeña.
“The only possible explanation is, Duterte is doing this to reward Commissioner Lapeña’s loyalty and guarantee his silence and continued cooperation, much like what he did to (former BoC chief Nicanor) Faeldon,” Trillanes said.
“Both ex-Customs commissioners surely know the true masterminds behind those huge shabu shipments,” the former Navy Lieutenant said.
Pangilinan said, “When incompetence or corruption go unpunished and those linked to irregularities are rewarded with other top-level posts, then both incompetence and corruption will just get worse.”
“It also places in doubt the sincerity and seriousness of the administration in its campaigns against corruption and illegal drugs,” he said.
“Gross and inexcusable negligence is a ground for dismissal,” Pangilinan said.
Sen. Joel Villanueva, in a text message, said that it was the prerogative of the President to select his Cabinet.
“However, the appointment of Lapeña, similar to Faeldon seems to reflect the lack of accountability, especially if the banner campaign is against drugs,” he said.
“We will not be able to address our drug problem if we will not curtail the supply of drugs. Tons of drugs entered the country under their watch. They should be made accountable, not promoted,” he said.