President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he has reassigned Bureau of Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority after the former military man became embroiled in a controversy over the smuggling of billions of pesos worth of shabu.
“General Lapeña will move to TESDA. I will promote you to a Cabinet member position,” Duterte said during the 117th-anniversary celebration of the Philippine Coast Guard Thursday evening.
He said Lapeña’s experience as a law enforcer would help him head TESDA.
“Sid, the job at TESDA is quite something. it could be messy at times, but I’m sure your training as a military man… would augur well for the country,” he said.
This will be Lapeña’s third appointment in the Duterte administration. Before he was Customs commissioner, he headed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
The President also announced he appointed Maritime Industry Authority Administrator Rey Leonardo Guerrero to take over Lapeña’s job as BOC chief.
He then ordered all top Customs officials removed.
READ: Ex-Customs man in drug mess may turn state witness
“Everybody’s out. To the last man, the commissioners are out, the department heads are out,” Duterte said, telling Guerrero that he may bring his own people to the bureau.
“I know you don’t want to leave Marina… I know you are reluctant… I know you are happy there and content, so I’ve heard, but the demands of public service and the need for honest men require your presence there,” Duterte told Guerrero.
Guerrero will be the third Customs chief under Duterte, following Lapeña and Bureau of Corrections Chief Nicanor Faeldon.
The President said he would announce Guerrero’s replacement in Marina in due time, adding that there would be “minor revamp” in the lower parts of the government.
The Palace said the President did not think Lapeña had failed as BOC chief and said his transfer was a promotion.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, however, did not cite the reason for the abrupt “promotion.”
Before his reassignment, Lapeña insisted he would not resign, and shrugged off calls for him to step down.
“The President placed me there to accomplish a job, a mission and that is to stop corruption and increase revenue collection,” he said in a Palace briefing. “And I have been delivering and I still have to do a lot to accomplish that mission.”
Lapeña made the statement following his public acknowledgment on the possibility that the four magnetic lifters found in Cavite could have contained shabu that had been smuggled through Customs.
He had earlier denied that billions worth of shabu slipped past the bureau in August.
READ: Shabu mess: Plot thickens
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