TP explains why President Duterte did not fire Lapeña and was just moved to TESDA - The Daily Sentry

Friday, October 26, 2018

TP explains why President Duterte did not fire Lapeña and was just moved to TESDA

President Rodrigo Duterte and BOC Chief Isidro Lapeña
Amid the controversy of the magnetic lifters that might contain shabu, and accusations that BOC Chief Lapeña might be involved in the illegal drug trade, President Duterte made a rather “soft” response to the issue. He relieved Lapeña from the BOC post and transferred him to TESDA.

Thinking Pinoy’s Views

Popular blogger Thinking Pinoy aka Rj Nieto, shared a post in his Facebook page how appalled he was on the epic blunder made by the BOC, but he tried to made sense on the reason on why the president decided to just transfer the BOC chief to TESDA instead of firing him, despite the strong allegations made by BOC Deputy Chief Collector Lourdes Mangaoang.
Rj Nieto, photo from GMA Network
The blogger stated facts about the incidents and then deduced them to somehow justify the reason why our usually unforgiving president decided to take it soft on Lapeña. While many cabinet members who committed blunders were immediately sacked and even sued, Lapeña got away with a proverbial slap in the wrist.

Druglord Or Just Incompetent?

It was established that Customs Deputy Mangaoang indeed handed over the “cloudy” x-rays of the lifters that might suggest that something might be inside them, yet the Customs chief ignored the report that may, wittingly, or unwittingly, allowed the entry of tons of shabu into the country.

His actions can be interpreted in two ways. First, that he is a coddler of drug syndicates, and he “covered up” the syndicates by allowing the drugs to pass through the BOC. Second, he is just plain incompetent, or sad to say, stupid. According to Nieto, there is an aphorism that says "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."


TP’s Nieto deduced that the reason why the president decided to just “recycle” the BOC chief to TESDA is that there is a strong possibility that his blunder is more of incompetence than anything else. The president has access to information that even media don’t have so it is fair to say that he was convinced that Lapeña was just given a task that is too much for his abilities.

It is also a clear indication that Lapeña was not fired because he still enjoys the trust and confidence of the president. According to Nieto, it is so much harder to find trustworthy individuals than knowledgeable ones with questionable character.

In the end, Nieto concluded that Lapeña may be an incompetent BOC chief, but Duterte thinks he can be trusted and that his talents can still be used in other agencies.

Read full post below:


After the Customs chief flip-flopped on whether the magnetic lifters that got past Bureau of Customs PH contained shabu or not, Pres. Rody Duterte decided to replace BOC Chief Isidro Lapeña and transfer him to TESDA.

Many were surprised, especially in light of Customs Deputy Chief Collector Lourdes Mangaoang's claim that Lapeña ignored warnings that customs x-rays of the said lifters suggest, albeit inconclusively, that there's something hidden inside them, with some reports saying that Mangaoang accused Lapeña of being complicit to the illegal drug trade.

I myself am appalled at what appears to be a monumental blunder on BOC's part. However, it is my habit to examine claims carefully and avoid falling for these claims hook, line, and sinker, especially after my experience with the controversial impeachment of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.

So let's state the facts.

1. Mangaoang sent Lapeña x-rays of the magnetic lifters that showed cloudy sections within the items, suggesting something's concealed inside them, possibly shabu.

2. Lapeña ignored Mangaoang's report and possibly in the process allowed, wittingly or unwittingly, the entry of over P6.4 billion worth of shabu into the country, shabu that was later found out to have found its way to the streets.

3. Mangaoang claimed Lapeña willfully ignored her report. She further added that Lapeña is involved in the illegal drug trade when she said the latter was "covering up" for drug syndicates.

4. Lapeña expectedly denied Mangaoang's allegations but he backpedaled when he said the lifters may have contained shabu, the total opposite of what he said a month or so ago.

That's basically it. Now, let's examine each of them.


The first is essentially uncontested, i.e. Mangaoang indeed handed over to Lapeña the "cloudy" x-rays.


The second is also essentially uncontested, with the crucial proviso that malice on Lapeña's part is still debatable.

I believe Hanlon's Razor, or the aphorism expressed as "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." applies here. Contextualized to the situation, it should read, "Never attribute to corruption that which is adequately explained by incompetence."

In the absence of additional supporting evidence, it would be better to exercise some prudence by presuming for the time being that Lapeña simply lacked the faculties to appreciate the importance of the x-ray report.

After all, borrowing (and very slightly modifying) the words of Christopher Hitchens, what's asserted without evidence can be refuted without evidence.


The third is a bare allegation, as Mangaoang would still have to provide additional evidence to support this claim. A photo showing Lapeña being cozy with a drug baron, or a document showing Lapeña received substantial drug-related kickbacks, perhaps?

Merely providing the x-rays that Lapeña supposedly ignored is insufficient to establish ill intent on Lapeña's part because of Hanlon's Razor as stated in the previous section, i.e. I think applying Hanlon's Razor is sufficient to establish reasonable doubt.

Again, what's asserted without evidence can be refuted without evidence.


The fourth, as far as I see, happened because the evidence (the x-rays) plus the analyses during the hearings makes further denial ludicrous.

But concluding that the flip-flopping is evidence of Lapeña's complicity in the illegal operation would be dangerous because alternative explanations exist.

For one, flip-flopping could more simply be interpreted as Lapeña saying "F*ck! I made a mistake." Again, it's Hanlon's Razor.


With these said, available evidence can only prove Lapeña's incompetence in handling the technical aspects of Customs work, and it's insufficient to establish malice.

While many are shocked at the president's decision to "recycle" Lapeña through his transfer to TESDA, I after some thought found the decision reasonable and I'll tell you why.

Compared to Customs, TESDA is far simpler to manage because it requires far fewer abstractions and a lot less technical know-how. Surely, Lapeña in TESDA is a lot less likely to receive something similar to the x-ray report he got in Customs, something that would require quite a bit of technical knowledge that Lapeña apparently lacked.

Let's be honest here: a TESDA chief's job is not very different from a School Principal, though far larger in scale.

Setting aside the fact that the president by virtue of his position has access to information that most of us mere mortals will probably never know, let me reiterate that available evidence strongly suggests only Lapeña's incompetence as a Customs chief and nothing else.

If anything, evidence suggests that the Lapeña Issue is a classic example of the "Peter Principle", or that "managers rise to their level of incompetence". That is, Lapeña may have been given a task (BOC chief) that is beyond his abilities, so the President gave him a new task (TESDA chief) that is more likely to be right up his alley.

But why didn't PRRD just fire him?

The President's decision to even raise the TESDA chief to a cabinet-level position is a clear indicator that while the President may have been dismayed by Lapeña's blunder at BOC, the latter still enjoys the president's trust... and trustworthy (i.e. honest, incorrupt) people are harder to find than technically knowledgeable ones.

I mean, look at former Budget Sec. Abad: he's so technically knowledgeable about the budget process but... you know what I'm gonna say.

In short, Lapeña is an incompetent Customs chief, but PRRD may still believe that his talents, though not as broad as hoped, may still be useful in other agencies.

And for now, I believe that's all that can be deduced from this brouhaha.

Source: Thinking Pinoy