Gordon to Malacañang: Clarify role of military in Customs

Rambo Talabong
Gordon to Malacañang: Clarify role of military in Customs
'Dapat ilinaw muna ng Malacañang kung anong gagawin ng military,' says Senator Richard Gordon even as he defended President Rodrigo Duterte's order for the military to take over a civilian agency

MANILA, Philippines – While he understands why President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a military takeover of the Bureau of Customs, Senator Richard Gordon said Malacañang should first clarify the role of soldiers to be deployed to the agency in consideration of the law and the uninempeded operations of the BOC.

Gordon made the statement in his opening remarks at the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on the alleged missing P11-billion shabu shabu (methamphetamine) shipment on Tuesday, October 30, a day after Duterte issued the controversial order. (LIVE: Senate hearing on P11-B worth of shabu slipping past Customs)

Sa tingin ko dapat ipreno ang dapat gawin ng military…. Dapat ilagay sa proclamation na ang ilalagay sa Customs ay susundin ang batas…. Dapat ilinaw muna ng Malacañang kung anong gagawin ng military,” the Senate panel chairman said.

(I think [Malacañang] should put the brakes on the role of the military…. It should be placed in the proclamation that those to be deployed to Customs will follow the law…. Malacañang should first clarify what the military will do.)

Gordon expressed hope that soldiers to be deployed to the BOC would perform a similar role to the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP SAF) members who were sent to augment personnel at the National Bilibid Prison to curb the drug trade there.

He said members of the military can man the gates, help in intelligence gathering, and provide additional security, but they do not have training in assessing duties on imported goods, collection, and also in manning X-ray machines crucial in keeping out smuggled goods.

Gordon said if the military would perform other roles that its members were not trained for, this would impede the operations at the BOC.

“This is a stopgap solution. I think there should be long-range solutions,” Gordon said.

But Gordon also defended the President’s order, saying that under the Constitution, the military can can be tapped when there is “lawless violence.” The senator said in his view, this appeared to be the situation at the BOC in connection with the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

“We are under invasion of drug right in our front doors,” Gordon said.

The senator added that other lawyers may differ in opinion, but he considered the huge drug smuggling incidents manifestations of lawless violence since “drugs bring violence” and also “constitutes a real threat.”

“The point is the President is serious, so serious about this that he issued an order,” Gordon added.

He also defended Duterte against allegations that the ordered military takeover of a civilian agency indicated martial rule, suggesting that he did so for “golpe de gulat (shock and awe)” at the graft-ridden bureau. 

Hindi ito martial law, walang sinuspinde na habeas corpus. Tinawag ang ating armed forces na dalhin sa Customs (This is not martial law, there is no suspension of habeas corpus. Our Armed Forces were called to go to Customs),” Gordon said.

Military spokesman Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo earlier said they were only preparing for the order of Malacañang, but they will not barge into the agency without clear instructions from Duterte. – Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.