Lapeña fired Customs ‘whistleblower’ before Senate testimony

Whistle blower Lourdes Mangaoang Rappler
Commissioner Isidro Lapena Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Before former Bureau of Customs X-ray chief Lourdes Mangaoang was even able to speak at the Senate last month on the missing one ton of shabu (methamphetamine) worth P6.8 billion, her boss Commissioner Isidro Lapeña sacked her, documents obtained by Rappler show.

In an order signed by Lapeña on September 12 and approved by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez on September 17, Mangaoang was ordered relieved from her most recent position as a deputy collector of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and to report in the Customs Monitoring Unit (CMU) instead.

The CMU is used by Customs officials as a holding unit for employees and officials with tainted credibility.

Eleven days later, on September 28, Mangaoang would still appear before the Senate blue ribbon committee to disclose that the BOC did not follow standard operating procedures in scanning the magnetic lifters believed to have been stuffed with shabu.

It was also the first time that she declared the giant lifters were not empty, disputing the claims of her own boss and colleagues who distanced themselves from any conclusion that the lifters used to contain illegal drugs.

Mangaoang has since then questioned her dismissal before the Civil Service Commission (CSC), a move that allowed her to retain her position pending a final decision.

Why sack her? Based on a document dated also on September 12, Lapeña wanted to look into suspected corruption committed by Mangaoang.

Lapeña had requested the Department of Finance’s anti-corruption arm, the Revenue Integrity and Protection Service, for a lifestyle check on Mangaoang, who has been with the BOC for over 30 years.

Prior to her NAIA post, Mangaoang worked in the ports of Manila, Cebu, Legazpi, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, and Zamboanga.

Lapeña did not leave room for details in explaining the reason for the request, saying, “This is in relation to the marching order of the President to the undersigned (Lapeña) to stop corruption and increase revenue earnings in the Bureau of Customs.”

Mangaoang would face a complaint later in October, which called on the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission to look into her alleged “unexplained wealth.”

Mangaoang’s testimony: Despite the relief order from her own boss, Mangaoang fought back.

Mangaoang, a lawyer, contested Lapeña’s order before the CSC, a move that allowed her to keep her position during her testimony at the Senate.

In a phone interview with Rappler on Monday, October 22, Mangaoang said she chose to attend the Senate hearing despite her dismissal as she was given a subpoena to go, and she simply wanted to “tell the truth.”

“Ayoko sana pumunta, pero ayoko rin naman ma-perjury o contempt (I also did not want to go, but I also did not want to face perjury or contempt),” she said. –