Duterte names officials he says are under probe, have been dismissed
In this photo taken on November 10, 2020, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte holds a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
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Duterte names officials he says are under probe, have been dismissed

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - November 11, 2020 - 11:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night read aloud the names of public officials he says are under probe, one night after reportedly trying to get immigration officials linked to a bribery scandal to eat money wrapped in paper.

In 2016 and again in 2019, the president read out names in a supposed "narco-list", saying the people on it were involved in the illegal drug trade. Many of those named set meetings with the Palace or with the police to clear themselves of alleged drug links. Some were later charged, others were killed by unidentified gunment or in police encountes. 

"At corruption, I tell you that I am really angry and, I will not only investigate you, I will expose you to the public so that people will know that you have deceived your government," the chief executive said in Filipino during a televised address to the public.

The government has intensified its campaign against corruption in its ranks, with Duterte designating Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to head a "mega task force" to look into graft allegations in the bureaucracy.

These investigations have gone hand-in-hand with moves by Duterte —  which some have criticized as performative — such as exposing the names of allegedly corrupt officials to the public or summoning them to Malacañang to receive a "dressing down." 

The following is a list of immigration officials and personnel who were put under preventive suspension last month by the justice department "pending investigation of formal charges against them for grave misconduct, neglect of duty or conduct prejudicial to the best interest in the service in connection with the falsification of travel record of a former Wirecard Executive": 

  • Perry Michael Pancho
  • Marcos Nicodemus
  • Darren Ilagan

These three individuals, meanwhile, were also put under preventive suspension and are facing charges of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, gross neglect of duty, and/or conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service in connection with the “pastillas” scheme, according to Duterte: 

  • Neil Tristan Estomo
  • Mikara Kaye Cortez
  • Christopher Lee

The chief executive also mentioned officials from the Department of Public Works and Highways who were dismissed in 2016 by the Office of the Ombudsman for grave misconduct: 

  • Wilfredo Agustino
  • Rudy Canastillo
  • Edward Canastillo
  • Cecil Caligan

Duterte added that the following DPWH officials were also dismissed by the Ombudsman for direct bribery, indirect bribery, graft, and the violation of procurement laws in relation to the overpricing of imported lamp posts from China: 

  • Lea V. Negre 
  • Leonardo Paulican
  • Elmer Calo
  • Pedro Mercado
  • Agathonico Galarrita
  • Doroteo A. Laguna
  • Harold Caermare 

Preventive suspension is meant to keep an official under investigation from interfering with the probe.

"There is more but it will take until the morning. The employees are running out. You know, you — do not ever think that you are indispensable in the scheme of things in government," Duterte said partially in Filipino. 

'Dressing down'

Justice Secretary Guevarra and presidential spokesman Harry Roque have separately recounted Duterte's meeting with officials from the Bureau of Immigration on Monday night where he reportedly offered them money tucked between the wrapper of pastillas in reference to the bribery scheme all 40 of them had been linked to.

According to Duterte's Cabinet members, the president's intention was to have the BI officials eat the money but he eventually relented and did not follow through on enforcing the punishment.

Notably absent from the meeting, Sen. Risa Hontiveros remarked, was the alleged mastermind behind the "pastillas" scam, Marc Red Mariñas, former BI Port Operations Division chief. Hontiveros, as chair of the Senate committee on women, led the hearings which first uncovered the bribery schemes at the bureau. 

While Immigration Commissioner Morente was reported to have been present for the "dressing down," Malacañang has thrown its support behind the former Davao police chief, with Roque confirming that the commissioner continues to enjoy the president's full trust and confidence. 

Duterte's refusal to fire higher-ranking appointees has cast a cloud of suspicion over this supposed "all-out" effort against corruption, as figures such as Public Works Secretary Mark Villar and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III remain virtually cleared in corruption allegations in their agencies.

The president's failure to disclose his wealth to the public in the last two years has also drawn flak. Malacañang's latest attempt to ward off questions regarding the disclosure of the Duterte's Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth involved the invoking of Typhoon Rolly, the effects of which do not fall under the Ombudsman's purview in any way.

Chief graft buster Samuel Marties recently restricted access to public officials' SALNs, a move his predecessor has flagged as running contrary to his mandate.

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