MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang is confident that incoming customs chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero and military personnel will need only one week to learn all the technical knowledge and administrative background to run the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
"I don't think it will take time to learn the ropes of the game in any particular bureau. I think one week would be long to learn what you should be doing there. It's administrative work so all you need is really, if you're intelligent enough, you will learn fast," said Presidential Spokesman and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Monday, October 29.
He was speaking at a Malacañang news briefing the day after President Rodrigo Duterte announced the temporary takeover of active military personnel of the BOC, a corruption-ridden agency.
Panelo said that while soldiers will be placed in charge of the bureau, longtime staff will still be asked to help the military transition into their roles. Duterte had earlier placed all BOC officials and personnel in "floating status."
The BOC is full of positions that require specialized knowledge in keeping records and forms, bookkeeping, operating equipment like X-rays, and other technical know-how critical to ensuring both the smooth flow of imported goods and ensuring contraband does not slip past authorities.
Panelo said military personnel that have acquired such knowledge will likely be sent to the BOC.
"There are a lot of them who have taken [courses in] graduate schools, scholarships with respect to some technical knowhow and certainly they will also be undergoing training to be competent in the field they will be assigned to," said Duterte's spokesman.
No written order yet
Told about concerns on the impact of the military takeover to BOC processes, Panelo said what was more important to Duterte is that the agency is run by honest people.
"If you have the necessary intelligence, you will learn in the course of your work. What is important in these kind of bureaus are men of integrity [who have] the trust and confidence of the President," said the spokesman.
Malacañang has so far issued no formal written order on the military takeover. Panelo said documents "will come in shortly."
He was also asked what legal basis the Palace will use in issuing such a presidential order. Civilian supremacy is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, where Section 3 Article II states “civilian authority is, at all times, supreme over the military."
Panelo also cited the Constitution as basis for Duterte's order, but kept it general.
"The underlying principle of his governance is the principle and directive from the Constitution that he will have to protect and serve the citizenry," he said.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.