Duterte 'recycled' Lapeña to prevent shabu probe backlash – lawmakers

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition lawmakers slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for "promoting" Customs chief Isidro Lapeña to Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) director general, a Cabinet post.

ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio and Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin said on Friday, October 26, that Lapeña was apparently promoted to protect him from the findings of the congressional probe into the missing P11-billion smuggled shabu (methamphetamine)

“President Duterte's recycling of Customs chief Lapeña to TESDA is meant to put an end to further investigation into the smuggling of P11-billion worth of shabu and insulate the latter from possible charges,” said Tinio. 

“Once again, the President is engaging in theatrics rather than in actually rooting out corruption and stemming the flow of illegal drugs from abroad,” he added.

The night before announcing Lapeña's transfer, Duterte admitted illegal drugs might have gotten past the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. (READ: Duterte to Lapeña and Aquino: Stop blaming each other)

Prior to Duterte’s announcement on his Tesda appointment, Lapeña had highlighted the BOC’s supposed achievements under his one-year stint to counter resignation calls. He said then that he still enjoyed the "trust and confidence" of the President. 

On Friday, Villarin also slammed what he described as Duterte’s “musical chairs policy” to address multi-billion peso drug scandals under his watch.

“This policy lets off steam to prevent public backlash but it only fools the people that he is doing something about it but ultimately, nothing comes out of it. It happened to former BOC Commissioner [Nicanor] Faeldon before and the same is happening now to Lapeña,” said Villarin.

Faeldon resigned as BOC chief following the congressional hearings on the P6.4-billion shabu shipment  that got into the country last year. Senator Panfilo Lacson had accused him of accepting grease money from smugglers when he was Customs chief, which Faeldon denied.

Faeldon was later appointed as deputy administrator in the Office of Civil Defense. Duterte now wants Faeldon to head the Bureau of Correction because BuCor chief Ronald dela Rosa, is running for senator in 2019.

Kung sa ordinaryong user patay kaagad ang utos, pero sa kanyang mga alipores at kaibigan lahat may second at third chance pa and they even are promoted," said Villarin. 

(His orders against ordinary drug users is to kill them immediately, but his henchmen and friends get a second or third chance and they even are promoted)

"Public office no longer becomes a public trust. Loyalty is its own reward at the expense of genuine public service and exacting accountability,” he added.

'Militarization' of the Duterte government 

Two other opposition lawmakers scored Duterte’s “militarization” of the government. 

With Lapeña, a former police general, set to be moved to TESDA, former military chief and current Maritime Industry Authority Administrator Rey Guerrero will take over the BOC. 

ACT Teachers Representative France Castro wondered aloud why Lapeña would not head an agency like TESDA.

Ano naman ang gagawin ng isang ex-[police general] sa isang education-related agency? ‘Yan ang mukha ng Cabinet ni Duterte...militarized at mga incompetent at corrupt (What would an ex-police general even do in an education-related agency? That’s the face of Duterte’s Cabinet…. Militarized, incompetent, and corrupt)," said Castro.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate claimed that a “de facto military junta” was now in place in the country because of the number of retired military men in government.

"Having no proven competence nor knowledge on the agencies they are assigned in, these former military men just follow orders from the top. Yet, they just remain silent when corruption is exposed in their department then they are reassigned to another agency like what happened to Faeldon and Lapeña," said Zarate. 

"This militarization of the bureacracy is dangerous to civil servants and the general populace because they are trained to just  follow orders, without question.This style of pampering the military is also prone to incompetence and waste of the people's money because they are not suited for the jobs they are rewarded with," he added. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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