PRESIDENT Rodrigo 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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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View.


*The opinion of this author is his/hers alone. It is not necessarily the views of Beyond Deadlines.

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Robert Roque Jr.
Robert B. Roque Jr. is a veteran journalist who started out as a correspondent for Manila Bulletin's tabloid TEMPO in 1983. In 1989, At age 27, he rose to become the youngest associate editor of a newspaper of national circulation. In mid-2000, he took the helm of the paper as its editor until his voluntary retirement in 2012. He currently writes a syndicated column for TEMPO, Remate, and Hataw newspapers, and for this site, Beyond Deadlines. A former journalism lecturer at the Faculty of Arts and Letters of the University of Santo Tomas from 1992 to 2002, Roque is also an active member of the Lions Clubs International, the largest service club organization in the world, having served as head of the Philippine Lions (council chairperson) in Lion Year 2011-2012.

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