This is not about questioning the wisdom of President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive for the military to have part of its component deployed to the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for law enforcement activities.
After all, not being a lawyer, one can only submit to the statement of Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, saying, “Time and again, the President assures everyone that as a lawyer, he knows the limits of the power and authority of his office.”
This, after Malacañang finally saw it fit to declare a state of lawlessness at the BOC following the seemingly undetected shipment of illegal drugs (shabu) worth billions that entered the country through customs during the time of recently ousted Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña, and even during the time of his predecessor, Nicanor Faeldon.
Obviously, what is happening at the BOC can be considered as a crime committed against humanity, which can also be interpreted in the same vein as invasion or rebellion and the only way to quell it is by the use of military force which is a constitutional mandate of a president.
But what I am questioning, however, is the efficacy of such an order.
It is not as if there never were military officers assigned to the BOC before. In fact this is one government agency where, because of its notoriety as haven for nefarious activities, retired military leaders are immediately considered on the pretext that their training, rank, assignment or position while on active service will be able to instill discipline and change the despicable corrupt culture of the hugely income generating agency.
Alas, time and again the once highly respected gentleman and officer fall short of his mandate to tame and cleanse the agency or his department for that matter, of unscrupulous individuals and become instead a willing participant of a rotten system.
So what makes the deployment of ordinary soldiers a ray of hope at the BOC under a newly minted commissioner who is himself a general of the armed forces?
I understand it is a tactical approach not only to make the bureaucracy change its notorious corrupt practices but also effect a turn-around of the negative perception of the people about the BOC.
It’s an approach intended to stir ‘shock and awe’ feeling in the bureaucracy, but who are they kidding?
Whatever and however one describes the crime syndicate inside the bureau that are smuggling illegal drugs with impunity and creating havoc in our society, the fact remains that those behind it cannot easily be intimidated and, therefore, no amount of soldiers and weaponry brought in could ever bring down the monster that it has become all these years.
This is not to belittle our soldiers, but this is not the kind of confrontation they have been trained to do their best and so let us save them from embarrassment as they will surely fail. Without strong psychological preparedness in battling corruption, human frailty can easily succumb to temptation.
Hopefully, Duterte would consider looking once more into what Sen. Panfilo Lacson has suggested which is having a need for a sophisticated counter-intelligence mechanism in the BOC. This is not about force but rather of having a superior intelligence by any means under a competent and exemplary head.