File photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has reserved 150 soldiers on "standby" for the prevention of smuggling in the agency, customs chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero announced on Thursday, January 24.
In the first of his Kapihan sessions as the Bureau of Customs head, Guerrero said that, if needed, there are already "warm bodies" from the military prepared to do customs-related work.
They will be "around 150" in total, with 30 stationed in each of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) commands across the country. For example, soldiers deployed in the Eastern Mindanao Command would be ready to assist the Davao port.
Asked what the job would entail, Guerrero said they will be for "law enforcement and intelligence."
The move comes weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte announced a "takeover" by the military of the bureau.
The government has since clarified that the presidential announcement did not mean an entire takeover of a civilian agency.
Guerrero had also parried militarization claims, asserting that he's already a civilian by virtue of his retirement from the armed forces.
As a former military chief trained in intelligence and operations, Guerrero declined to give more details on the planned deployment, saying doing so would compromise efforts of the agency in curbing smuggling.
He assured the public that he will achieve results with lasting impact – something that his immediate predecessors were unable to accomplish. (READ: How Isidro Lapeña was outplayed)
"Maghintay lang kayo, basta may ginagawa kami para maiayos ang Customs (Just wait. We are working to fix Customs)," Guerrero told reporters after the open forum. – Rappler.com