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Duterte orders Philippine customs takeover

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is to replace all officials at the Philippine Bureau of Customs with military officers, after illegal drugs worth billions of pesos allegedly slipped through the agency, reported Taipei Times (Taiwan).

“It will be a takeover of the Armed Forces in the matter of operating in the meantime while we are sorting out how to effectively meet the challenges of corruption in this country,” Duterte said on Sunday night in a speech at the birthday celebration of his former secretary of foreign affairs, Alan Peter Cayetano.

Duterte, who since he took office in June 2016 has led a war on drugs that has killed thousands of people, said that he is yet to issue a formal memorandum effecting the changes.

There are “lawless elements” within the Bureau of Customs, the nation’s second biggest revenue earner, he said, instructing the agency’s Intelligence Group to report directly to him.

From now on, three signatures from either navy or coast guard officials are required before a container can be released from customs’ control.

Customs police have also been placed on so-called “floating status,” where they continue to be employed by the agency, but with no specific role, designation or department to report to.

Duterte last week transferred Bureau of Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapena to another government post, after lawmakers launched an investigation into the alleged smuggling of as much as 11 billion pesos (US$205.16 million) of methamphetamine that apparently slipped through the agency in August.

Describing both Lapena and his predecessor, Nicanor Faeldon, as “honest” men, Duterte said that there has been a “continuous play of corruption” within the agency, particularly at the lower levels.

“By openly pushing for the military takeover of a civilian agency, President Duterte is violating the constitutional principle of the supremacy of civilian authority over the military,” opposition Philippine Senator Risa Hontiveros said in a statement critical of the takeover.

The move was “dictatorial,” she added.

Duterte also reiterated his support for Philippine Secretary of Finance Carlos Dominguez, who has overall supervision of the Bureau of Customs.

He is a “very good friend” who “can do wonders for the country,” Duterte said.

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Reporter: Denes Osvalt
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Category: Action, Politics
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