Guerrero’s next mission: Restore public trust in Bureau of Customs

Rambo Talabong
Guerrero’s next mission: Restore public trust in Bureau of Customs
New Customs chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero says his leadership will be 'decisive and unrelenting'

MANILA, Philippines – New Customs chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero kept on mentioning one word during his assumption speech on Wednesday, October 31: Trust.

Facing hundreds of Bureau of Customs personnel on his first day as BOC commissioner, Guerrero said they had a lot of work ahead of them to build confidence in each other, and more importantly, to build public trust and confidence in the agency.

“Trust is the basic element in building teamwork…. I need to be able to trust every single member of Customs as upright…. I need you to trust me,” Guerrero said.

“There is work to be done, to regain the trust of the public in the bureau, and the work begins now,” he added.

Prior to his stint in civilian agencies, Guerrero served an institution were trust and teamwork are key. He was in the military for 34 years, capping his career as chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). He was a commanding general of the Eastern Mindanao Command, and the first implementor of martial law in Mindanao under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

After his retirement from the military in April, Duterte appointed him as administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), a job the President himself had said Guerrero seemed contented with, but he wanted him to take the helm of the problematic BOC.

Fixing Customs might be his toughest mission yet. Guerrero is stepping into the controversial and highly technical bureau after former police general Isidro Lapeña was moved to another government agency amid congressional probes into the missing P11 billion worth of shabu (methamphetamine) believed to have slipped past Customs checks.

Lapeña himself was appointed to the position in August 2017, following another multibillion-peso shabu controversy that prompted his predecessor Nicanor Faeldon to resign.

Guerrero did not appear to be intimidated when he stood before the BOC personnel on Wednesday. Instead, the retired 4-star general said he would do his best in his new job and vowed to give the BOC “decisive and unrelenting” leadership.

“In all my years in service, I have gone under one rule – to do my best under any circumstances,” Guerrero said.

When asked about his planned new policies at the BOC, Guerrero said he had yet to discuss this with his fellow Customs officials and his bosses, Duterte and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III. The BOC is under the supervision of the DOF.

Guerrero also said that he had yet to clarify the guidelines for Duterte’s recently ordered military takeover of the bureau–

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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.