3 Sueno accusers also under probe

Christina Mendez, (The Philippine Star) - April 7, 2017 - 12:00am

Rody: I was not misinformed  Sueno


DAVAO CITY , Philippines  – The three Department of the Interior and Local Government undersecretaries who had accused former DILG secretary Ismael “Mike” Sueno of corruption and other abuses are reportedly being investigated themselves. 

“Ang akala ng tatlo, nakalusot na sila. Iniimbestigahan din sila. Hindi naman sila malinis (The three think they are cleared. They are also being investigated. They are not clean),” a reliable source told The STAR yesterday.

President Duterte fired Sueno during a Cabinet meeting Monday night amid allegations of corruption and abuse of authority.

The three undersecretaries – John Castriciones for operations, Jesus Hinlo for public safety and Emilie Padilla for legislative liaison and special concerns – wrote Duterte a confidential memorandum providing details on the supposed “sins” of Sueno.

“We urgently pray to you, Mr. President, to please act with dispatch if you so decide to remove Mike Sueno from his post; otherwise, he will create more harm against the DILG and cause injustice to the Filipino people by abusing his power and position,” Castriciones, Hinlo and Padilla said in their letter to the President. 

Sources said, however, that the three are also under investigation by Malacañang. 

The Chief Executive yesterday said he is bent on dismissing more government officials in his administration’s fight against corruption. 

“I will fire more. Mag-dismiss pa ako nang marami (I’ll dismiss a lot more). I have dismissed about 92, karamihan sa LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board), LTO (Land Transportation Office). Pero kasi may mga anak na nga sila, nakita ko, may mga abugadong anak na doktora. Sabi ko (But these officials have children and I see that they are lawyers and doctors. I told them), go out quietly. Hindi na ako mag-eskandalo kasi out of respeto sa mga anak ninyo. Mapahiya eh (I won’t create a scandal out of respect to their children. They’d be embarrassed),” the President told reporters in a press conference shortly after his visit to the Western Command in Palawan.  

Sueno and the three undersecretaries are members of the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Committee who were among those who pushed for Duterte to run for president in the May 9, 2016 polls. 

Sueno himself was the first to ask Duterte last month to remove the three undersecretaries, which resulted in a rift between them.

Sueno also wrote the Chief Executive a letter detailing his sentiments and cited “irreconcilable differences” with his three subordinates.

In retaliation, the three sent Duterte that confidential memo shortly before he fired Sueno.

The former Cabinet secretary stressed that the three were pushing for Technical Education and Skills Development Authority director general Guiling Mamondiong as his replacement.

Sources said the rift between Sueno and the three undersecretaries was more of a “deal gone awry” without explaining further. 

The President cited in particular Sueno’s trip to Austria last January in connection with the purchase of fire trucks. 

Sueno and Bureau of Fire Protection officer-in-charge Chief Supt. Bobby Baruelo, accompanied by other DILG and BFP officials, visited the headquarters and factory of Rosenbauer International AG in Austria on Jan. 11-13.

Rosenbauer, the world’s largest manufacturer of firefighting vehicles, is the contracted supplier of the  DILG-BFP Capacity Building Program funded by the Austrian government through a mixed grant-loan package.

‘I know what I’m doing’

In a bid to show that he did not merely listen to unfounded accusations, Duterte yesterday maintained that he conducted a thorough review on the corruption charges against Sueno. 

As a lawyer, Duterte said he did the proper verification of the reports concerning Sueno’s decision to favor Rosenbaur to supply the firetrucks to the DILG, which has jurisdiction over the BFP. 

“I could never be (a) misinformed abogado. Ako, misinformed ako? (Am I misinformed?) When I make a move, when I fire you, diyan mismo, alam ko ginagawa ko (I really know what I’m doing),” he said at the same press conference in Palawan. 

Duterte said he had repeatedly warned his Cabinet members and those in the bureaucracy not to engage in corrupt activities. 

“Sabi ko, the first whiff, unang singaw lang, maski hindi totoo (even if it’s not true), ba-bye tayo (it’s goodbye),” he said, adding that there are still many smart and talented Filipinos who can help him implement reforms in government. 

“Maraming kapalit sa gobyerno. Hindi tayo nagkulang ng talent, bright, pati honest with integrity (We have a lot of replacements in the government. We don’t run out of talent, bright and honest with integrity),” the Chief Executive said. 

Sueno had vehemently denied he was corrupt and that he had made himself rich under the Duterte presidency.

Hands off

Meanwhile, the Department of Finance (DOF) yesterday denied it had a hand in the supply contracts that involved the acquisition of 76 fire trucks and pursued by Sueno.

Finance assistant secretary and spokesperson Paola Alvarez quickly defended Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, saying the Cabinet official simply honored the agreement of his predecessor, Cesar Purisima, with Unicredit Bank Austria AG.

“Dominguez had no recourse but to implement the loan agreement that was sealed by his predecessor, Cesar Purisima, with the Unicredit Bank Austria AG for Phase 2 of the Capability Building Program of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) – an agency attached to the DILG – before President Duterte took over last year,” Alvarez said.

She added that the project’s contracts were handled directly by Sueno, DILG head executive assistant Josephine Leysa and BFP OIC Baruelo.

“The loan agreement and supply contract are two separate and distinct things,” Alvarez said.

“Neither Secretary Dominguez nor the DOF had anything to do anymore with the supply contract that Sueno had approved on his watch, on the basis of the loan agreement that the DOF had authorized because it was already approved in the past by Malacañang, the Monetary Board, the DOJ (Department of Justice) and DBM (Department of Budget and Management),” she added.

Sueno said it was not he who signed the two loan agreements for the purchase of fire trucks.

He also said the two supply contracts for the project were given the go-signal by the DOF, DBM, DOJ, Office of the President, National Economic and Development Authority and the Investment Coordination Committee of the Cabinet.

Nobody indispensable

Saying that nobody in his Cabinet is indispensable, Duterte yesterday expressed no qualms over his decision to fire even his closest allies in his commitment to give Filipinos a respite from corruption during his term.

“I’ll just fire everybody. Alam mo… there are 110 million Filipinos who are jobless, almost more than half of it, hindi ako magtiis, isang Pilipinong gago (I can’t stand even one idiot Filipino) ! T**I*** paalisin kita at maraming papalit sa iyo (I will fire you and there are many who can replace you)!” Duterte said.

The President was referring to Undersecretary Halmen Valdez as the one he fired on Wednesday, following her decision to allow rice importation which he thought would be disadvantageous to local farmers.

Duterte said Valdez overstepped her authority when she signed papers which supposedly approved the rice importation.

He also took to task National Food Authority administrator Jayson Aquino and asked him to explain why he was bypassed about the importation. 

Valdez supposedly signed the order when former president Benigno Aquino III should have been the signatory.  – With Mary Grace Padin

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