Soldiers at the BOC
THIS is not to question the wisdom of President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive for the military to deploy its personnel to the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for law enforcement activities. After all, not being a lawyer, I can only submit to the statement of Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo that, “Time and again, the President assures everyone that, as a lawyer, he knows the limits of the power and authority of his office.”
Early on, Malacañang saw it fit to declare a state of lawlessness at the BOC following the seemingly undetected shipment of illegal drugs (shabu) worth billions of pesos during the incumbency of the recently ousted 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.
What I am questioning, however, is the efficacy of such an order.
It is not as if no military officer was 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 to head it on the pretext that their training, rank, assignment or position while in the active service would be able to instill discipline and change the despicable corrupt culture of the income-generating agency.
Alas, time and again the once highly respected gentleman and officers of the military fell short of their mandate to cleanse the agency of unscrupulous individuals. They became instead willing participants in the running of a rotten sy st em .
So why consider the deployment of ordinary soldiers to the BOC a ray of hope for the agency 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 notoriously corrupt practices but also to effect a turnaround in the negative perception of the people about the agency. It’s an approach intended to stir a “shock and awe” feeling in the bureaucracy. But who are they kidding?
Whatever and however one describes the crime syndicate inside the bureau that is smuggling illegal drugs with impunity and creating havoc in our society, the fact remains that it cannot easily be intimidated and, therefore, no soldier and weaponry deployed top the agency 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 meet. So let us save them from embarrassment as they will surely fail. Without strong psychological preparedness in battling corruption, people can easily succumb to temptation.
Hopefully, Duterte would consider Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s suggestion, which is to have a sophisticated counter-intelligence mechanism in the BOC. This is not about force but rather of having superior intelligence under a competent and exemplary head. (Jesus Sievert)