Duterte’s fight vs corruption: 20 sacked execs face no charges

Pia Ranada
(4TH UPDATE) Of the officials President Rodrigo Duterte has fired over alleged corruption or misconduct, 4 are back in government while two are in jail

'YOU'RE OUT.' President Rodrigo Duterte has spoken at length about how his firing spree is a sign of his commitment to fight corruption. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – Of the officials President Rodrigo Duterte has fired due to alleged corruption or misconduct, 20 have not yet been charged, 4 have been reappointed, and one was retained in government.

Rappler compiled a list of all the officials Duterte has fired, so far, for alleged corruption or misconduct, which includes those fired for “junketeering” or going on unnecessary, extravagant trips. Duterte himself had cited such trips as examples of a “whiff” or indication of corruption.

Of the 20 officials, 4 are back in government: Sacked Social Security System commissioner Pompee La Viña  was named tourism undersecretary while sacked Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor commissioner Melissa Aradanas is now deputy secretary general of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council. Aradanas is the cousin of Duterte’s longtime partner, Honeylet Avanceña.

Duterte later moved La Viña to the Department of Agriculture, following the change in leadership at the Department of Tourism.

Sacked PCUP commissioner Joan Lagunda was reappointed as environment assistant secretary on April 6, 2018. A 3rd sacked PCUP commissioner, Manuel Serra Jr, was reappointed member of the Philippine Coconut Authority governing board.

One official, former Philippine Health Insurance Corporation interim president Celestina De la Serna was replaced but Duterte decided to keep her in PhilHealth’s Board of Directors.

The list does not include officials sacked not necessarily due to corruption or misconduct – such as former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, fired supposedly for clearing alleged druglords of drug charges; Palace undersecretary Halmen Valdez, fired for allegedly seeking extensions of import permits; and former Dangerous Drugs Board chairman Benjamin Reyes for contradicting Duterte’s “4 million drug addicts” figure.

Notable, however, is former customs chief Nicanor Faeldon who resigned but was reappointed by Duterte as deputy administrator at the Office of Civil Defense. Faeldon is now facing an investigation by the Ombudsman into graft, violation of drug policies, and usurpation of official functions in relation to the P6.4-billion drug smuggling controversy that exploded in customs under his watch.

However, the two Bureau of Immigration deputy commissioners fired by Duterte, have been charged with plunder for allegedly receiving a bribe, and are now in jail, after the Ombudsman found basis for the charges.

Here is the list:

Peter Laviña, former National Irrigation Administration chief – Fired for allegedly demanding “40%” commission on NIA regional projects.

Ismael Sueno, former interior secretary – Fired for allegedly acquiring a hotel in South Cotabato and trucks for a family business, facilitating the purchase and delivery of trucks from Austria that were more expensive than from other sources, and for supposedly accepting bribes from gambling lords.

Jose Vicente Salazar, former Energy Regulatory Commission chairman – Dismissed over simple and grave misconduct “with elements of corruption.”

Gertrudo de Leon, former budget undersecretary – Fired for allegedly offering to increase budget allocations for government agencies or entities as long as he gets a cut.

Dionisio Santiago, former Dangerous Drugs Board Chairman – Fired for alleged extravagant travels abroad, aside from a remark critical of the mega drug rehabilitation facility funded by a Chinese billionaire. 

Terry Ridon, Melissa Aradanas, Manuel Serra Jr, Noel Indonto, and Joan Lagunda, former Presidential Commission chairman and commissioners – Fired for alleged excessive foreign trips. Aradanas, Serra, and Lagunda have been reappointed.

Elba Cruz, former Development Academy of the Philippines President – Fired for alleged excessive trips.

Marcial Amaro III, former Maritime Industry Authority administrator – Fired for alleged excessive trips.

Patricia Licuanan, former Commission on Higher Education chairperson – Fired for alleged excessive trips, aside from supposedly delaying the release of scholars’ allowances.

Jose Gabrial “Pompee” La Viña and Amado Valdez, former Social Security System commissioner and chairman, respectively – Fired for allegedly “abusing” public funds. La Viña was reappointed tourism undersecretary and then as agriculture undersecretary.

Dominador Say, former labor undersecretary – While he resigned, Malacañang said he would have been fired ayway for alleged “corruption relating to activities of labor recruiters.”

Celestina de la Serna, former Philippine Health Insurance Corporation interim president – Sacked for excessive spending on hotel stays in Metro Manila, excessive travel expenses, and P8.9 billion net income loss of PhilHealth under her watch. Yet Duterte retained her in the PhilHealth board of directors.

Tingagun Ampaso Umpa, former public works assistant secretary – Fired for allegedly asking for a commission from projects awarded to Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao contractors.

Mark Tolentino, former transportation undersecretary – Fired for meeting and speaking with President Rodrigo Duterte’s youngest sister Jocellyn Duterte after Duterte ordered government officials not to entertain requests from his relatives as a way to prevent corruption.

Rudolf Jurado, former government corporate counsel – Fired for issuing a legal opinion that would empower the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (Apeco) to issue online gambling franchises for operation outside its area of jurisdiction.

Not Duterte’s job

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, however, said that filing charges against the sacked officials is the job of the Office of the Ombudsman, not of Duterte.

“The filing of cases for the officials the President has fired is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Ombudsman. Don’t you understand that? At a certain salary grade, it is the Ombudsman who must investigate,” he said on Thursday, May 3.

However, it is also within Duterte’s or Malacañang’s power to file complaints against these officials with the Ombudsman to initiate a probe that could lead to actual charges.

Duterte also has his Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission to draft such complaints.

Without such initiative from Duterte, who made the allegations against the officials, or the Ombudsman, those who could be guilty of corruption may suffer humiliation but be spared judgement by the courts. Those who are innocent, as the sacked officials have claimed to be, are also robbed of the chance to clear their names. Rappler.com

Did we miss anyone? Please let us know in the comments!

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.