By Betheena Kae Unite
New Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña aims to end the culture of “pasalubong” and “tara” in the Bureau of Customs (BOC) as he assumed its top post Wednesday.
“The marching order given to me by President Rodrigo Duterte is to stop corruption and increase revenue collection,” Lapeña said as he spoke before the Customs employees during the turn-over ceremony.
“My top priority — and it should be clear to everyone — is to do away with the culture of ‘pasalubong’ and ‘tara.’ Strictly ‘no-gift and no-take’ policy,” the new Customs chief added.
The former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) director said he would bring to the bureau the policy he implemented in PDEA to stop corruption.
“Similar to what I did wih PDEA, I will implement a ‘one-strike policy’ to boost internal cleansing, which of course, shall be supported by intensified counter intelligence efforts,” Lapeña said.
He said he will establish a counter-intelligence efforts inside and outside the Customs bureau.
Changes not judgments
Lapeña said as he assumed office he intends to make changes and not judgments on the bureau.
“I intend to give each of you a clean slate, so we can move forward. Just do your work. Prove your worth, and I will back you up,” Lapeña said.
“But once I receive reports of your involvement with corrupt practices and such reports are validated, I will not think twice. Pasensiyahan tayo,” the commissioner added.
He noted that once someone in the bureau was caught doing corrupt activities, he will be relieved from his post.
“After the relief, the case will be investigated, due process will be taken. And if it turns out to be true, I will take actions,” he said.
Unlike former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, who received “texts” before he could even assume his post in 2016, Lapeña said he did not receive any.
However, he said that he received information that someone is already using his name to collect money.
“I am now issuing a stern warning to unscrupulous individuals who plan to use my name to collect money and ask favors to circumvent laws and regulations,” Lapeña said.
“I will get you. If anyone uses my name to facilitate unlawful activities, do not hesitate to apprehend them under citizen’s arrest and you will be given a reward. I will exercise zero tolerance against corruption in the bureau,” Lapeña added.
Aside from the one-strike policy, Lapeña also said he will establish a 24/7 feedback mechanism that will receive reports of corruption in the bureau.
‘Give me time’
The new commissioner said he needs time to study the bureau and the pending cases specifically the alleged smuggling case against Panfilo “Pampi” Lacson, which Faeldon revealed earlier.
“The investigation is on-going. We are closely monitoring that and we will conduct an investigation along that line,” he said.
Lapeña also said that he will need to evaluate the officials and scout inside the bureau to fill the vacant positions that some former Customs officials left.
“I will have to study that in several days… Give me time,” he said.
Lapeña is better
Meanwhile, Faeldon urged all Customs employees to work with the new commissioner, saying Lapeña is better than him.
“It is not easy to change that stigma (about the bureau). With incoming Commissioner Sid Lapeña, I’m sure he can do a thousand tines more than I did. Sid Lapeña is a better officer than me,” Faeldon said.
He encouraged the stakeholders to come forward and tell the new commissioner what they have failed to tell him during his term.
Lapeña also appealed to the stakeholders, especially the importers to support and cooperate with the BOC.
“Do not give us reasons to hold your shipment and I assure you that under my term as Customs Commissioner, we will collect what is legally proper and correct dues. No more ‘tara’,” Lapeña said.
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