MANILA, Philippines — In the past two months or so, they have been officials only on paper.
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) undersecretaries Jesus Hinlo, Emily Padilla, and John Castriciones – subjects of an ouster move over alleged corruption – have been on floating status since April 2017, DILG Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing told Rappler.
“Bago pa mapaalis si Secretary [Ismael] Sueno, tinanggal na sila sa kanilang mga responsibilidad,” Densing said. (Even before Secretary Sueno was sacked, they were stripped of their responsibilities.)
The 3 undersecretaries were the ones who wrote President Rodrigo Duterte to remove DILG chief Sueno, their fellow Duterte campaigner, for an alleged anomalous purchase of fire trucks. The President fired Sueno without the benefit of a one-on-one talk, although Malacañang went ahead with the supposed questionable firetruck deal.
According to Densing, the 3 have been holding their titles for the past couple of months as undersecretaries, but they have not been able to initiate and sign projects in line with their titles:
- Hinlo’s job of promoting public safety was distributed between officer-in-charge Catalino Cuy and new Assistant Secretary Nestor Quinsay, who oversees the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).
- Padilla’s job of pushing forward federalism was given to the Local Government Academy, which Densing oversees.
- Castriciones’ job of overseeing drug rehabilitation centers was also given to Densing, and the latter’s original mandate to head the department’s operations was given to Cuy.
This, while the 3 continue to be paid at salary grade 30 – about P117,600 each per month.
However, the 3 can still represent the DILG in government and civic events.
With this, the 3 have limited their activities to attending seminars and conferences organized by local government units and the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Coordinating Committee (MRRD-NECC), the national volunteer organization which campaigned for Duterte in 2016.
Asked why the 3 were demoted, Densing said that Sueno may have lost trust in the three undersecretaries during the twilight of his term, leading to their demotion.
“If the secretary does not trust the people below him who are supposed to be his deputies, then the secretary, by all means, can strip them of those responsibilities,” Densing said.
True to Sueno’s suspicion, the 3 undersecretaries ended up fueling his ejection (READ: INSIDE STORY: How Duterte fired DILG chief Sueno)
Densing said the 3 expected that their responsibilities be returned to them after Sueno had been relieved from his post, but they were surprised to find out that they remained floating officials.
The DILG officer-in-charge Catalino Cuy could not return their powers as only an acting interior secretary or an interior secretary has the power to do so.
While General Eduardo Año has been named as the next DILG chief, it is still unclear when he will assume his post, and what his decision will be on the 3 undersecretaries.
Undersecretaries Hinlo, Padilla, and Castriciones are currently subject to a probe by Malacañang, a DILG source disclosed.
Recently, a confidential memorandum was submitted to the Palace begging President Duterte to fire the 3, and outlining accusations of corruption against them. (READ: DILG officials, employees urge Duterte to fire 3 undersecretaries)
In a text message sent to Rappler, Hinlo denied the allegations against them, saying that the memo is a “harassment” against the reforms they have been espousing for.
Hinlo was accused of trying to bypass the department’s procurement system, and for engaging in “money-making enterprises” through the BFP and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology – agencies under the DILG.
Padilla, the memo said, has not submitted receipts of where the “millions” of pesos allotted for the federalism campaign went.
Castriciones allegedly failed to submit reports on lands managed by the DILG, and was accused of being the reason for the failure of Task Force Agila, the project to investigate local officials who are involved in the drug trade. – Rappler.com
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