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Challenge and dilemma for Comm. Guerrero
THERE is no doubt in most people’s minds that when the day arrives for Bureau of Customs (BOC) commissioner, Rey Leonardo Guerrero, to leave his post, he would be leaving with his head high over the success of the many innovations and programs that he has pursued with passion and determination during his tenure that begun in October 2018.
In terms of revenue collection, among the three major present “obligations” of the bureau next to trade facilitation and border protection or ‘anti-smuggling’ Comm. Guerrero “has delivered the goods,” so to speak.
For three years in a row, or from 2019 up to 2021, the BOC, thanks to his strict but fair management style, has managed to surpass its assigned annual collection, a feat made more remarkable and exemplary given the economic and trade devastations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Too, stakeholders and our economic managers, especially Comm. Guerrero’s “boss,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, can only express delight and admiration over the same determined and passionate manner that the BOC has pursued the computerization of its processes to facilitate the country’s trade with more than 80 percent of those processes now fully automated.
Meanwhile, we estimate that since taking office, the BOC has thus far apprehended some P50 billion worth of smuggled goods while hundreds of cases against those behind these foiled smuggling attempts are now facing criminal cases before the Department of Justice.
To anyone who has been given the unenviable task of supervising the BOC, such accomplishments should be a balm to a tired body and soul at the end of his tour of duty and a source of pride for they are permanent legacies of positive change that he would be leaving behind.
But all of these are now in jeopardy and in real danger of being “forgotten” by the public and even by Comm. Guerrero’s peers and superiors in government.
We are referring to the continuing and some suspect, deliberate, acts of violence targeting customs officials and personnel and which have been happening since the end of last year.
Already, two customs personnel have been killed and two more are still recovering from the failed attempts on their lives.
Meanwhile, a grenade luckily did not explode after it was thrown at the compound of the Customs Police at the Port of Manila while a grenade did explode and damaged several vehicles after it was thrown at the house of a deputy customs commissioner, the second highest BOC official.
The suspicion—and the fear– that these incidents are not “random acts” but are all deliberately being done by some sinister and devilish quarters is boosted by the fact that they happened one after another in a span of just 3 months, from December 2021 to this month of February.
And clearly, the intention is not to just sow fear but to cause actual death, given that two of the victims have already died.
A climate of fear has clearly descended at the BOC and it behooves everyone to speculate that as a former chief of the entire Philippine Armed Forces, Comm. Guerrero has managed to secure the entire country from acts and threats of terrorism but unable to extend protection to his subordinates and fellow officials in a government agency like the BOC.
If Comm. Guerrero fails to get to the bottom of this ‘terrorist acts’ inside his own agency, it would take down everything he has accomplished, no matter how laudable and exemplary they are. His term, whether he likes it or not, would be remembered for the spate of violence that resulted to deaths—and not how fast shipments now get released at the BOC.
Solving this life and death problem is both a challenge and a dilemma for him and his leadership.
The faster he solves it the better for everybody, his legacy most especially.