TAGGED AS THE TIGER LADY of the Bureau of Customs, barely had Atty. Lourdes “Des” Villamar Mangaoang had warmed her seat as head of the BOC X-ray Inspection Project (XIP) for the third time, her alert operatives already made some remarkable accomplishments, the latest of which was the seizure of an estimated P3.9 million worth of “kush” or high-grade marijuana from California, United States.
Only last month, BOC-XIP operatives under Villamar-Mangaoang thwarted P400.72-M ‘shabu’ smuggle from West Africa misdeclared as spare parts.
Considered a sort of “cutting edge” of the BOC, the XIP is the office in charge of monitoring and training Customs X-ray personnel across the country.
Apparently aware of Mangaoang’s background, last January 18 a Customs Personnel Order (CPO) was released with then Customs Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz appointing her as head of BOC XIP.
If my memory serves me right, Ma’am Des first held that position from 2007 to 2013.
I first met her in 2006 when I covered the BOC Port of Cebu when she was the district collector and she impressed me with her brutal frankness, intellect, and decisiveness.
Beauty, brains, and guts, I must say.
Those were the days when the BOC Port of Cebu kept on surpassing its collection targets and “everybody happy,” so to speak.
In 2018, Mangaoang – who was reassigned as Customs collector for passenger services at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) – was thrust into the limelight when she dared to go against her colleagues in the P11-billion shabu controversy.
In that case, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) suspected that around 1 ton of shabu escaped Customs checks through magnetic lifters.
The BOC then under Customs Commissioner Isidro “Sid” Lapeña initially denied the allegation and claimed that the containers were hollow.
Lapeña had been insisting that there was no shabu in the four magnetic lifters found in a warehouse in Cavite province in August of that year.
But Mangaoang stood her ground and openly disputed Lapeña.
Lapeña eventually conceded during a hearing in the House of Representatives that the magnetic lifters could have contained shabu.
In January 2019, the National Bureau of Investigation recommended criminal and administrative charges against Lapeña for his failure to prevent the smuggling of billions of pesos worth of illegal drugs into the country in July 2018.
The NBI recommended that Lapeña, along with the Port of Manila (POM) district collector Vener Baquiran, be charged with graft, dereliction of duty, and grave misconduct for their inaction against the importers of the shabu.
Ironically, Baquiran — whom I don’t know from Adam — is now the deputy commissioner of the Assessment and Operations Group (AOCG) previously held for six long years by true-blue Digong Duterte loyalist Atty. Edward James Dy Buco.
Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo “Jagger” Guerrero, who replaced fellow ex-general Lapeña, then appointed Mangaoang as the “Acting Head” of the BOC X-ray Inspection Project.
Although for unknown reasons, she did not last long in that position.
Truly, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies at the BOC.
And so goes for positions, too.