President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday announced that Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña would be transferred to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) amid the legislative inquiry into the alleged smuggling of P6.8 billion worth of shabu into the country.
Duterte announced his decision during the 117th anniversary of the Philippine Coast Guard in Manila where he also named Maritime Industry Authority administrator Rey Leonardo Guerrero as Lapeña's replacement.
The President said he was still looking for Guerrero's successor.
"I know that you are happy there and you are contented, so I’ve heard, but the demands of public service and the need for honest men requires you presence there," Duterte told Guerrero who was in the audience.
"I will look for the [next] MARINA [administrator] also coming from the Navy or Coast Guard whatever. Kung sino lang ang pinakamahusay."
Duterte ordered the removal of deputy commissioners and "freezing" of department heads of the Bureau of Customs. He also wanted the Coast Guard to handle and train people on x-ray inspection of shipments.
He also expressed confidence in the capabilities of Lapeña, a former Davao City police chief and ex-Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency director general.
"I will promote you to a Cabinet member position." Duterte told Lapeña, who was present in the event. "Sid ‘yung trabaho ng TESDA it’s quite something, it could be messy at times. But I’m sure your training as a military man just like Jagger [Guerrero] would all go well for the country."
Duterte said he wants Lapeña and Guerrero to take their oath of office on Friday to ensure continuity of operations in their respective agencies.
Lapeña earlier in the day shrugged off resignation talk following criticism over the shabu mess.
“The President placed me there to accomplish a job, and that is to stop corruption and increase revenue collection. I have been delivering and I still have to do a lot para ma accomplish ang mission na 'yan,” Lapeña said at a news conference in Malacañang.
He said he could not he held liable on the ground of command responsibility, adding it was the BOC which looked into the drug shipment and subsequently filed charges against the suspects.
The Customs chief also denied protecting Bureau of Customs men who may have been involved in the shabu shipment. —NB, GMA News