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robert roque

PRESIDENT Duterte ad­mitted to the public re­cently that there is a militariza­tion of government under his administration, which has been quite apparent in his choice of appointing retired military officials to posts unrelated to national security.

Just lately, due to the contro­versy of the P11 billion worth of drugs that managed to slip into the country, he changed the leadership of the Bureau of Customs (BoC), ordered the Armed Forces of the Philip­pines (AFP) to take over, and placed all heads of Customs units on floating status.

Former Customs commis­sioner Isidro Lapeña, a retired police general, was assigned as chief of the Technical Educa­tion and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). Former AFP chief Rey Leonardo Guer­rero, the ex-administrator of the Maritime Industry Author­ity (Marina), replaced him.

Observers noted this was the second time a Customs chief was placed in “hot water” due to illegal drugs and “re­warded” another post. Would a constant change of leader­ship help set a clear direction for policy implementation?

Opposition lawmakers point­ed out that appointing retired soldiers to key posts makes the bureaucracy vulnerable to incompetence because the appointees are not suited for the tasks at hand. How would a former military man run a bureau if he knew nothing of its functions? Wouldn’t this incompetence translate into waste of taxpayer’s money?

However, Duterte admitted his preference for military men since they “shoot first, ask questions later” unlike some civilians who, at times, ques­tion their superior’s orders. He explained that soldiers are used to work under harsh conditions and can perform their tasks despite the risks they face.

On the other hand, some people believe that being trained to merely follow orders without question may lead to further problems with civil servants and the general public in the future.

Firing Line does not want to oppose the President on the Customs issue. I understand that he sees the military as key to prevent “bad eggs” from exercising their rotten ways. Question is, will soldiers merely stand guard and do nothing else?

I am certain the President needs no reminding that the 1987 Constitution prohibits active military personnel from being appointed or designated to a civilian position in any capacity and at any time. Being a lawyer and former prosecutor, he is quite aware of the Constitution and its contents. Is he not unmind­fully allowing the military to hold a wide influence over the civil service in his penchant for assigning military men in civilian positions?

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