MANILA – Senator Richard Gordon on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Duterte should be careful in appointing former military officers to serve in government agencies because of their tendency to give fellow servicemen top posts inside the agency only to be poisoned by corruption.
“The President must be very, very careful in appointing because there is a tendency to appoint a lot of our friends in the military,” he said.
Gordon, who chairs the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee currently investigating the drug smuggling scandal at the Bureau of Customs, made the observation after Senator Panfilo Lacson’s privileged speech about Customs officials, including ex-military officers, allegedly receiving ‘tara’ or grease money at the bureau.
Gordon questioned the wisdom of sending graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) to what he called “a stink path or cesspool of corruption.”
Citing the alleged involvement of an internationally respected former two-star general like Natalio Ecarma III in the corrupt practices at the bureau, Gordon said anybody placed in corruption-ridden agencies would be “snakebit” by corrupt practices.
“When I saw his name in the list I was crestfallen because that is your whole thesis. If we don’t clean up Customs, anybody put in there would imbibe the poison of corruption,” he said.
Gordon also observed that a fellow colleague, referring to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, has earlier cleared his PMA classmates Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambala of the Command Center, and Import and Assessment Service (IAS) Director Milo Maestrocampo of any involvement in the scandal but has “bared down” on Faeldon.
“I found that weird and unusual. But I’m only saying that not to cast aspersions on our colleague but to say that we have somebody like a classmate there, it is harder for you to put pressure on him to be honest and it would be harder to discipline him. And you have the honor code,” he said.
Trillanes, Faeldon, Gambala, and Maestrocampo were former Magdalo officers and members of the PMA class of 1995.
Faeldon, along with Gambala and Maestrocampo, were named by Lacson as recipients of tara at BOC.
Gordon also questioned the wisdom of giving government posts to former military officials who belonged to a group with a history of attempted coups d’état.
“The wisdom of putting in military, especially a group like Magdalo, that has set two coups d’état in our country, is that wise?” Gordon asked Lacson.
Lacson replied, “as things turned out, I would say it’s not wise.”
Gordon agreed it was not wise to place PMA classmmen inside a government agency, pointing to the same situation at the Bureau of Immigration (BI), where its intelligence chief Charles Calima Jr. was sacked by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre after being linked to a P50 million bribery scandal at the agency but later cleared by his “mistah” and BI chief Jaime Morente.
“We both agree that it’s dangerous. First of all, is there any danger, for example, that they could be raising money for a political party like Magdalo? Is there any danger, for example, that they could be raising money to buy arms for another coup?” he said.
Despite his suspicions in appointing ex-military officers, especially former Magdalo officers, Gordon expressed confidence in the newly appointed BOC chief Isidro Lapeña, calling the former police officer an “upright man.”
Meanwhile, Lacson in his privileged speech vouched for the integrity of Lapeña as “an honorable man”.
“With his appointment as the new Customs chief, I can only hope na hindi siya kakainin ng sistema tulad ng nauna sa kanya [that he will not be devoured by the system like his predecessor],” Lacson said.