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Duterte admits militarizing government

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday a militarization of the government under his watch even as critics slammed his appointment of former military officials to his Cabinet.

In a speech in Cagayan de Oro Wednesday evening, Duterte seemingly agreed with his critics that there is, indeed, a militarization of his administration.

“They say, ‘militarization of the government.’ Correct!” he said in the wake of criticism of his order to have military men take over the Bureau of Customs.

“I will not sit as President and let you render me inutile as you continue with your corruption in Customs right in front of me. P***** i** niyo. Now you have a problem,” he said.

READ: Military takes over Customs

“They say, ‘Please tell the mayor that not all of us are corrupt.’ That’s true. But why is it that many entered into shabu? [smuggling]?” he said, clearly frustrated that billions of pesos of the illegal drug have managed to get past two of his former Customs commissioners, Nicanor Faeldon and Isidro Lapeña.

“Faeldon is a Marine, Sid is a police. They do not know, so I said men from the Army might be better,” he said.

The President defended anew his personal preference for appointing former military and police officials to government posts, saying he believed they were men of integrity and competence.

READ: Guerrero: Customs men still run show

He explained that when he issues orders to former military men who are now working in civilian posts, the job gets done. He said they are also less likely to debate with him in implementing government policies.

“I said, ‘Do it randomly or forcibly open everything.’ They will really do it. You know, that’s why I like military men. I have no fight with the bureaucracy but with the bureaucracy, it will take them forever. They will even debate with you,” he said. “You have a disaster, a fire, a flood, but the fools there would reportedly be still drinking.”

As proof, the President said the efforts of Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Eduardo Año contributed to the successful rehabilitation of Boracay Island.

Both Cimatu and Año headed the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force, together with Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.

“Do you think Boracay would have been cleaned up if it weren’t for Año and Cimatu? Año is from the DILG and Cimatu was once assigned in Davao. The money would probably have all been spent within a week,” he said.

He also commended former military general Eduardo Del Rosario for his work in the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City.

“Would the project in Marawi have been done so quickly if I hadn’t assigned Del Rosario? He’s a military man who was also assigned in Davao. Would there still be money? I’ve been in government for a long time so I know how funds can be manipulated,” the President said, praising Del Rosario’s work as the chairman of Task Force Bangon Marawi.

Critics were quick to express concern over the apparent militarization of the government as the President ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to “take over” the BoC.

The 1987 Constitution prohibits active military personnel from being appointed or designated to a civilian position in any capacity and at any time.

Malacañang, however, clarified no soldier would be given appointments and designations in the bureau, but if it comes to a point that such move is needed, the Palace said the Constitution will allow it.

Lawyer Romulo Macalintal disputed this claim, saying no member of the military in active service, at any time, may be appointed in any capacity to a civilian position in government.

“Why would the President designate military officials to take over the Bureau of Customs?” he said.

“Such act is of doubtful constitutionality in view of the very clear provision of Article XVI, Section 5(4) of the Constitution,” he said.

Macalintal said the only time the President could call on the armed forces is in order to “prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion” as provided under Section 17, Article VII of the Constitution.

“For sure, smuggling and irregularities in the BOC could not be considered as violence, invasion or rebellion to justify calling to action our armed forces,” he said.

Instead of designating military men in the civilian bureaucracy, Macalintal suggested that the President take over as head of the BOC even for a period of four months to fully understand and solve corruption at bureau.

“He can do this under Article VII, Section 17 of the Constitution which provides that the President shall have control of all the executive departments, bureaus and offices,” the lawyer said.

“President Duterte’s taking over the BOC could be the ultimate test whether or not said irregularities could still be resolved or prevented. If despite his presence, the same smuggling activities still persist or progress, then we can say goodbye to our quest for a clean and honest government in the Bureau Of Customs,” he said.

Meanwhile, a party-list lawmaker on Thursday said the pre-shipment inspection of all imports prior to their entry would solve the problem of corruption and smuggling.

“Pre-shipment inspection, valuation, and appraisal of all imports before they are sent to the Philippines would be one effective way to clean up Customs operations,” Bagong Henerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy said.

“There are different world-class customs inspection service providers out there and we just have to find the right match for the Philippines,” she added.

Herrera-Dy said President Rodrigo Duterte should also consider “turning over day-to-day management of Customs to whichever firm or consortium gets the customs inspection management contract.”

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , militarization , Bureau of Customs , Nicanor Faeldo , Isidro Lapeña
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