Robredo: Militarization of government won't solve corruption

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo voiced disagreement with President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday, October 4, saying that militarization of government is "not the solution" to corruption in agencies such as the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

On her radio show "Biserbisyong Leni," Robredo said the Constitution prohibits active soldiers from taking civilian posts in government in any capacity and at any time. She was referring to Duterte's announcement ordering the Armed Forces of the Philippines to take over the BOC. (READ: Militarization of government? 'Correct!' says Duterte)

"Kapag sinabi mo kasing i-take over na ng military iyong Customs, ito iyong mali. Ito iyong salungat sa Konstitusyon, kasi unang una, mayroong set ng mga obligasyon iyong mga militar at hindi ito kabahagi doon... Ito, hindi naman bawal na mag-appoint ka ng mga dating militar, pero para sabihin mo na i-a-under na sa military iyong Bureau of Customs, mali iyon," Robredo said.

(If you say the military will take over Customs, that is wrong. That goes against the Constitution because the military has a set of obligations, which does not include this... It is not prohibited to appoint a retired soldier but to say that you will place the Bureau of Customs under the military is wrong.)

The Vice President likewise slammed President Duterte for saying he appointed former military or police personnel to civilian posts because they were less likely to "debate" with him when implementing government policies.

"Nakakabahala ito kasi hindi sa lahat na bagay nakakatulong iyong hindi pagkuwestiyon, lalo na kapag mali naman iyong order," Robredo said. (This is worrisome because it does not always help that things are not questioned, especially if incorrect orders are made.)

Reviewing corrupt systems

According to Robredo, officials should instead review systems in place that may have allowed corruption to take place.

Among these were limiting face-to-face transactions in Customs – which she claimed was often where corruption took place – and replacing these with computerized processes.

Robredo added this should be the priority of government instead of continuously replacing who heads an agency. She said it was not enough to look at the integrity of who leads an agency, and that systems of an agency itself should also be questioned.

"Kahit palitan natin nang palitan iyong tao, kung iyong sistema nandiyan, kung sistema parang ina-allow daw niya na mangyari iyong ganito kagrabeng korapsyon, dapat balikan natin iyong sistema: ano ba ang dapat baguhin," she said.

(Even if we keep changing those who head the agency, if the systems that allows rampant corruption remain, we need to look at this and ask: what needs to be changed?)

She added, "Tingnan natin kung anong mga ahensya ngayon iyong hawak talaga ng militar, dating militar. Parang hindi naman puwede na hindi defined iyong mga functions, na kapag nagkakaproblema ito ang solusyon natin, mag-a-appoint ng mga, oo, ng mga galing sa militar."

(If we look at agencies now held by those who were from the military, it cannot be that their functions are not clearly defined, and that if a problem occurs, the solution will be to appoint someone from the military.)

The Vice President also urged officials to go after big-time drug smugglers as this would in turn address smaller drug pushers who may receive their supply of illegal drugs from them.

Robredo earlier said government officials who were remiss in their duty and allowed up to P11 billion worth of shabu (methamphetamine) to enter the country should be punished, and not merely transferred to a different office. (READ: Duterte moves Lapeña to TESDA, names Guerrero new Customs chief– Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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