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MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang, on Tuesday, November 21, distanced itself from a complaint it presented the day before as one of the reasons that led to the firing of former Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) chief Dionisio Santiago.
"We have never alleged they are gospel truth," said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, who had sent a copy of the letter to reporters on Monday, November 20.
He also claimed that he had "clearly" stated during the Monday press conference that the complaint was not one of the reasons for Santiago's exit.
However, Malacañang transcripts belie this.
The transcript says these were Roque's words: "I would like to confirm that General Santiago was let go by the President, not only because of his statements on the Mega Rehab Centers being a mistake. He was also let go because of complaints that General Santiago was using taxpayers’ money for junkets abroad."
Asked if the Office of the President verified the letter, Roque said the verification process has been "overtaken by events because [Santiago's] resignation came about."
Roque repeated Duterte's policy of axing his appointees even after just a whiff of corruption. Even anonymous letters would still warrant Duterte's attention.
"Even if this letter were anonymous, the President would still consider it and would still take steps to verify the truth of allegations," said Roque.
Could the policy embolden suspicious characters to write baseless accusations against appointees who are just doing their jobs?
"Thats a possibility, but the President is not an ordinary person. He’s a criminal lawyer, he knows the rules of evidence," answered Roque.
The spokesman stressed that Duterte is within his rights to fire any of his appointees he last lost trust and confidence in. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.