PHILIPPINES President Rodrigo Duterte removed key senior Customs officials from their posts on Thursday, including the department’s chief, after a large shipment of drugs slipped through the border.
In the announcement, Duterte said Customs Bureau Commissioner Isidro Lapeña would be reassigned as the Director-General of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).
Lapeña came under scrutiny after a shipment of P6.8 billion (US$126.5 billion) worth of methamphetamine, locally known as syabu, reached the Philippines under his watch.
“I am ordering the freezing of all, all section, department units of the Bureau of Customs out,” Duterte said during a ceremony marking the anniversary of the Philippine Coast Guard in Manila, as quoted by the Inquirer.
“The commissioners are out, the department heads, out.”
Duterte also said all top bureau officials were being replaced after failing to intercept the drugs, which reportedly weighed more than a tonne. The slip up is the second such case in two years.
Since entering office in June 2016, the firebrand president unleashed a bloody war on drugs that has seen the deaths of thousands of suspects in police raids or extrajudicial killings carried out by unknown death squads.
Duterte said he would appoint a retired army general to lead the Customs bureau who would be assisted by soldiers and members of the coastguard.
According to Reuters, Lapeña, a retired police chief who was at the ceremony, expressed surprise by his transfer and told reporters he thanked Duterte for the new posting.
Drug enforcement agents in July found traces of the drugs in containers in which they were smuggled.
In May last year, the previous head of the customs bureau was removed from his post after a massive batch of drugs was smuggled into the country.