Duterte sacks all top Philippine customs officials over drugs

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has made the fight against drugs the centerpiece of his administration since he won a presidential election in 2016. (Reuters)
Updated 25 October 2018
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Duterte sacks all top Philippine customs officials over drugs

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte fired the head of the Bureau of Customs on Thursday and ordered all top bureau officials replaced after the agency failed to intercept more than a ton of drugs, the second such case in two years.
Duterte has made a bloody fight against drugs the centerpiece of his administration since he won a presidential election in 2016. Thousands of people have been killed in the crackdown.
Duterte said Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapena was being removed from his post and all his deputies and top officials would be transferred.
“The commissioners are out, the department heads are out,” Duterte said during a speech at a ceremony commemorating the founding of the coast guard.
He said he was appointing retired army general to take over the bureau and soldiers and members of the coast guard would help him.
Duterte said Lapena would be reassigned to a government training agency.
Lapena, who was at the ceremony, expressed surprise by his transfer and commented briefly to reporters to express his thanks to Duterte for his new posting. He was not available for comment later.
Lapena, a retired police general, has been under pressure since customs authorities failed to detect a shipment estimated at more than a ton of methamphetamines being smuggled into the country in July.
Drug enforcement agents later found traces of the drugs in the containers in which they were smuggled, but the drugs were gone.
Duterte did not refer to that case on Thursday.
The previous head of the customs bureau was removed after a huge amount of drugs were smuggled into the country in May last year.


Sri Lanka parliament to meet in showdown between rival PMs

Updated 20 min 39 sec ago
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Sri Lanka parliament to meet in showdown between rival PMs

  • Sri Lanka has been locked in a power struggle since the prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sacked
  • The power struggle has crippled the work of the administration

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s parliament will meet under tight security Wednesday, after the top court ruled its dissolution illegal and opened the door to a vote on which of two rival prime ministers has the support to rule.
Sri Lanka has been locked in a power struggle since the president sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on October 26 and replaced him with former strongman president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
On Tuesday the Supreme Court overruled President Maithripala Sirisena’s dissolution of parliament, and halted preparations for a snap election, in a major boost for the ousted prime minister.
Wickremesinghe is confident he can command a majority and wants a vote on the floor of the 225-member assembly to determine the legitimacy of the government installed by presidential diktat.
“Speaker Karu Jayasuriya ordered the police to ensure that MPs have free access to parliament,” a spokesman for the Speaker said. “There will be tight security.”
Thousands of armed police have been deployed along the key approach roads to parliament, which is located on a man-made lake island, with several anti-riot units on standby.
Parliament officials fear that supporters of Rajapaksa’s party may try to stop legislators getting to parliament.
However, by early Wednesday there were no large crowds and only small pockets of Wickremesinghe supporters gathered near the parliament complex.
Rajapaksa’s party was divided Tuesday on facing a test in parliament. His legislator son Namal Rajapaksa said they will attend the legislature, but other party seniors said they would not.
Sirisena sacked the legislature after his party admitted that they did not have an absolute majority despite engineering the defections of eight legislators from Wickremesinghe’s party.
Since then, at least two legislators have ditched Rajapaksa and joined Wickremesinghe’s UNP party which insists it has a comfortable majority in the House.
Wickremesinghe, who insists he is still the prime minister, has refused to vacate the official Temple Trees residence which is a symbol of state power in the island.
The power struggle has crippled the work of the administration, according to lawmakers on both sides.