Customs chief relieves 38 officials in BoC reshuffle

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Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 9) — A sweeping change to rid the Customs bureau of corruption saw 38 officials relieved Monday.

Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña removed eight port district collectors since Oct. 4: Elvira Cruz of Cebu; Romeo Rosales of San Fernando; Julius Premediles of Limay; Jose Naig of Iloilo; Carmelita Talusan of Subic; Divina Garrido of Legazpi; Halleck Valdez of Zamboanga; and Tomas Alcid of Aparri.

Lapeña also removed 30 section chiefs from the Formal Entry Divisions of the Port of Manila and Manila International Container Port. They were reassigned to the provincial collection districts.

"No more tara, no tape, no gift, no pasalubong, no more benchmarking and we go by the correct valuation of the content of the shipment of our businessmen, our importers," Lapeña said in a speech Monday.

Lapeña appointed who he called "trusted people" from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), which he formerly headed, to fill in the posts.

PDEA officials transferred to the Customs bureau include Melvin Estoque of the Account Management Office (PDEA-Central Visayas), Jeoffrey Tacio of the Import Assessment Service (PDEA-Ilocos Region), and Jacquelyn de Guzman of the Administration Office (PDEA-MIMAROPA).

Lapeña said they need to fill 3,000 vacant positions.

The bureau is under fire over the unhampered entry of ₱6.4-billion worth of methampetamine hydrochloride (shabu) last May.

A Senate investigation on the shipment unearthed a bribe system called tara in the bureau. Its former chief, Nicanor Faeldon, is in Senate custody for refusing to participate on the hearings.

President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Lapeña to lead the bureau in August. The new Customs chief promised a 'one-strike' policy to clean the agency.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Camille Abadicio contributed to this report.