Back in Customs: Sacked MICP district collector is new deputy commissioner

MANILA, Philippines – A sacked district collector who is among those being investigated over the 2018 multibillion-peso shabu shipment controversy, is back in the Bureau of Customs (BOC), this time as a deputy commissioner.

Malacañang on Saturday, May 25, announced that President Rodrigo Duterte appointed  3 BOC deputy commissioners: sacked Manila International Container Port district collector Vener Baquiran, retired Brigadier General Raniel Ramiro, and retired Lieutenant General Donato San Juan.

The appointment papers are dated March 6 but the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson released the documents to the media only on Saturday.

Then-Customs commissioner Isidro Lapeña sacked Baquiran in August last year, following the discovery of a huge shabu shipment at the MICP, concealed in magnetic lifters. (TIMELINE: The search for P11-B shabu 'smuggled' into PH)

The shipment at the MICP, which yielded P2.4 billion worth of shabu, and another one Cavite where 4 empty magnetic lifters supposedly contained P11 billion worth of shabuwere the subjects of congressional inquiries and a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation.

The House panels on dangerous drugs, and good government and public accountability had recommended the investigation of and charges filed against Baquiran and several BOC employees “for violation of BOC policy against ‘sectioning.’” 

Baquiran was among those that a DOJ panel had endorsed to the Office of the Ombudsman for preliminary investigation in April. This is in relation to complaints of violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act No. 3019 (dereliction of duty and grave misconduct) stemming from the shabu shipment mess; and violation of Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code for failure to impose sanctions or penalize BOC officers involved in the shabu shipment controversy. 

He joins the list of officials in the Duterte administration who had been reappointed after they were either sacked to resigned from office following their involvement in a controversy. (LIST: No to corruption? Duterte's controversial reappointees)

Ramiro and San Juan, for their part, joined the BOC in acting capacities in November 2018. They belong to the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1984 – classmates of Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero. 

Duterte had earlier said that he wanted "soldiers" to take over Customs to end corruption in the agency. Guerrero is a former armed forces chief. – Rappler.com