By Betheena Unite
A personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard, who was disarmed and questioned by Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso for his presence at a container yard during a shipment inspection, was relieved from his post and told to just “charge to experience” the encounter with the mayor Wednesday.
Despite only performing his duty, Seaman Second Class (SN2) Jercel Dela Cruz, who is part of the K9 unit of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)’s Task Force Aduana, was relieved from his post and will instead be doing office work as recommended by the task force after the incident, the PCG said Thursday.
The Coast Guard said “since Dela Cruz’s identity and safety have been compromised,” Task Force Aduana recommended for his relief.
Coast Guard spokesperson Capt. Armand Balilo also told Dela Cruz to charge the incident to experience as the Coast Guard opted to move forward from it.
The Coast Guard, however, defended Dela Cruz’s presence at the Harbor Center, North Harbor in Port Area, Manila during the inspection of two shipments of African Swine Fever-positive meat products from Guangzhou, China, saying he was assigned at the container yard to “oversee the shipments.”
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In a video recorded live during the inspection, the local chief executive can be heard questioning Dela Cruz’s presence at the yard, arguing they are not in the sea for a Coast Guard personnel to be around.
The mayor then ordered his men to disarm Dela Cruz, who was also on the receiving end of profanities from Domagoso.
“Dela Cruz was covering his face when the cameras were pointed at him because he is part of the PCG’s covert operation on anti-corruption and anti-smuggling initiatives in partnership with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), as agreed upon in the memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed on 03 January 2019,” the Coast Guard said in a statement that was also sent to the Mayor’s office Thursday morning.
The Coast Guard was referring to the agreement signed by the three agencies in compliance with President Duterte’s directive to then-newly-installed Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero to open the Customs’ gates to military and Coast Guard personnel who will assist them in the anti-corruption and anti-smuggling operations of the bureau.
“Dela Cruz’s official duty at the Harbor Center was covered by said MOA, as well as mission order, letter of authority (LOA), and implementation plan,” the PCG stated. “Dela Cruz and the rest of the PCG Task Force Aduana are responsible for ensuring that all containers have proper documents or clearance before entering or exiting port area.”
The Coast Guard added that they are also tasked to augment the Port Inspection Division (PID) personnel of the Customs Bureau in guarding containers until they are delivered to their destinations.
“More importantly, PCG personnel also assist in serving LOAs and warrants of seizure and detention (WSDs), as well as to ensure that all items covered by said LOAs and WSDs are in custody and at the disposal of the BOC until otherwise released by lawful orders,” the PCG said.
Balilo said the PCG, however, “appreciates the proactive efforts of Mayor Isko to address smuggling and corruption in Manila,” adding that the organization respects and understands Domagoso as he performs his duties as a local chief executive.
“At the end of the day, the PCG chooses to look at the bigger picture — na intindihin na lang ang nangyari at pairalin ang respeto sa ating local chief executive. Ang mahalaga ay nakapaglabas ng statement ang PCG para malinis ang pangalan ni Dela Cruz at Task Force Aduana,” the PCG said.
(We will be understanding about the incident and respect our local chief executive. What’s important is PCG came out with a statement clearing the name of Del Cruz and Task Force Aduana.)