DILG officials, employees urge Duterte to fire 3 undersecretaries

Rambo Talabong

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DILG officials, employees urge Duterte to fire 3 undersecretaries
In a confidential memo submitted to President Duterte, DILG officials and employees accuse Jesus Hinlo, John Castriciones, and Emily Padilla of corruption

MANILA, Philippines – They spearheaded efforts to oust Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ismael Sueno for supposed dishonest dealings, and succeeded.

Now, the 3 undersecretaries to whom President Rodrigo Duterte listened in April are the subject of a similar campaign by career officials and employees of the DILG. The staff want the 3 presidential appointees fired for alleged corruption, Rappler learned. 

In a confidential memo submitted to President Duterte in May, DILG officials and employees begged for the dismissal of undersecretaries Jesus Hinlo, John Castriciones, and Emily Padilla, accusing them of various acts of corruption.

Mahal na Pangulo. Hindi po namin puwedeng ibunyag ang lahat ng mga kabalbalan ng tatlong usec na naghasik ng lagim sa aming Departamento dahil kukulangin ang inyong panahon, subalit kami po ay naniniklop-tuhod at nagsusumamo sa inyo na sana ay tuluyan na ninyong alisin sa pwesto ang mga usec na ito,” reads the memo, a copy of which was obtained by Rappler.

(Our beloved President. We cannot reveal all the shenanigans of the 3 usecs who have wreaked havoc in our department because we will take too much of your time, but we are kneeling and pleading with you to remove them from their posts.)

The confidential memo was prepared by DILG top officials and employees, who only signed as “Concerned Citizens and employees sa DILG.”

Rappler sought the 3 undersecretaries for comment, and Hinlo replied on behalf of the group: “Accusations are false and but a harassment from those opposing the reforms that I, Usecs. Padilla and Castriciones want to implement at the DILG.”

Before this, staff members of Padilla and Castriciones said the officials were aware of this letter when it was being circulated among employees.

Shortly after firing Sueno without even speaking to him on the issue, President Duterte promised he would have the 3 investigated next. (READ: INSIDE STORY: How Duterte fired DILG chief Sueno)

Rappler got confirmation from Malacañang that the memo was received by the Office of the President on June 1. Below is a summary of the DILG staff’s report to the President: 

Jesus Hinlo

Jesus Hinlo, the undersecretary for public safety, is accused of attempting to bypass the department’s procurement system, and engaging in “money-making enterprises” through the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

“This has something to do with the skimming off from ‘prisoner’s meal allowance’ scheme, ‘promotion-for-sale racket’ and ‘reassignment of personnel racket’, which would warrant a separate inquiry,” the memo said.

Hinlo is accused of keeping ties with Edgar “Tolikoy” Mellama, an alleged gambling and drug lord from Negros Occidental.

Mellama has supposedly been invoking his relation to Hinlo when he encounters law enforcers from the Philippine National Police, an agency under the DILG. 

These allegations were raised against Hinlo as early 2016, and Malacañang’s Presidential Management Staff reportedly recommended his removal. However, Sueno supposedly defended him and instead put him on floating status. So Hinlo still held the title, but no longer held the responsibilities and powers that came with it.

DILG sources say he still goes to the office and receives his salary.

Emily Padilla

Emily Padilla, undersecretary for legislative liaison and special concerns, is accused of having local government units fund her trips when she visited as the head of the federalism campaign, despite the project’s multi-million allocation.

“They all came in droves when they conduct their activities, much to the disappointment of the host LGUs who would be burdened with the bills for the accommodation, food, campaign materials, and a lot more,” the memo to Malacañang said.

They said Padilla continued the practice even after she had been stripped of her role as head of the federalism information drive. (READ: DILG designates Densing as ‘overseer of federalism’)

According to her Facebook posts with the latest dated June 1, 2017, Padilla continued in advancing federalism through the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Coordinating Committee (MRRD-NECC), the volunteer organization that supported Duterte during the campaign.

In the photos, Padilla was still identified by local governments as the leader of the DILG’s federalism campaign.

Padilla has yet to submit the report on expenses incurred for the campaign materials. DILG officials and employees claim these purchases did not go through the bidding process.

John Castriciones

John Castriciones, undersecretary for operations, allegedly neglected to submit reports on the lands donated to the DILG for the rehabilitation of drug users.

He is also blamed for the fallout of Task Force Agila, the DILG project meant to pin down local officials who engage in the illegal drugs trade. It was launched in August 2016 and was dissolved in March 2017.

Chito Bustonera, a lawyer who used to work for the task force, said they had put together a list of drug-linked local government officials, but admitted not one had been nabbed given the project’s early termination.

In May, Assistant Secretary Densing said that the department planned to revive the probe to finally pursue erring local government officials. (READ: DILG to revive probe of local officials with drug links)

Common denominator

Castriciones, Hinlo, and Padilla go way back. They are all members of the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte-National Executive Coordinating Council Committee (MRRD-NECC) that campaigned for the then Davao City mayor in the 2016 presidential election. In fact, they worked with Sueno during the campaign. 

According to the memo, their relationship with Sueno turned sour when the then-DILG secretary repeatedly rejected their demand to increase the budget of the federalism campaign to as high as P50 million without paperwork. They also wanted Sueno to exclusively hire MRRD-NECC members to facilitate the Masa Masid program, the department’s volunteer-based anti-illegal drugs campaign.

The officials and employees accused the 3 of always invoking how much they had spent supporting Duterte during the campaign. – with a report from Pia Ranada/Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.