The House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee recommended the granting of emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to “take over” the operations of the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
In its 82-page report, the committee recommends that Congress grant the President emergency powers to “immediately take over the operations of the Bureau in order to ensure public safety and security.”
The panel added that the extent of powers to be given to the President should be cautiously studied, and may include privatization of certain departments or functions of the bureau.
The report stated that the provision allowing emergency powers to Duterte can be found in Section 23, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution.
“In times of war or other national emergency, the Congress may, by law, authorize the President, for a limited period and subject to such restrictions as it may prescribe, to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out a declared national policy,” the article stated.
The committee considers the bureau’s corruption and “incompetence in protecting and securing the border from entry of large scale contraband especially illegal drugs” as a national emergency.
“The occurrence of the national emergency may be considered when the Philippine first line of defense has been compromised because of the Bureau’s corruption and incompetence in protecting and securing our border from entry of large scale contraband especially illegal drugs,” the report explained.
Duterte’s emergency powers would be exercised over a two-year transition period while the bureau is reconstructed into two separate agencies. The establishment of two new bureaus, which would replace the BOC, was also among the key recommendations of the report.
These two bureaus are the Bureau of Customs Service which main task is to assess and collect import duties and taxes, while the other agency, the Bureau of Security Control will protect and secure the national borders.
“The replacement of the present Bureau with two new bureaus is no easy task. The complexity of the current system and the difficulty of the entire transition process can give rise to unforeseen difficulties. As such, this Committee recommends a Two (2) year transition process to establish a fully operational system,” the House Ways and Means Committee report said.
It said that the current issue in the BOC is part of the overall campaign on lessening criminality in the country.
“The inability of government to curb corruption will in turn facilitate the entry of illegal drugs into the country will surely result in increased criminality in the country,” it further added.
Meanwhile, Duterte’s emergency powers would give him the authority to replace the entire personnel of the BOC.
In a radio interview over dzBB, Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means and Quirino Representative Dakila Carlo Cua said that if the need to replace personnel at the Bureau is massive, then the President will have enough power to be not limited to the civil service law or the tenure of these people.
The panel said that Customs officials who are involved in the shabu shipment must be dismissed from their posts immediately.
The BOC has been in hot water for the P6.4-billion worth of shabu from China that slipped through the agency and for its “tara” system.