Duterte fires DILG Secretary Ismael Sueno

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte fired Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno on Monday evening, April 3, due to "loss of trust and confidence," Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

"The announcement was made at the end of the 14th Cabinet meeting" held Monday evening in Malacañang, Abella said in a statement Tuesday morning, April 4.

Sueno's dismissal came after he accused 3 of his undersecretaries – John Castriciones, Jesus Hinlo, and Emily Padilla – of being behind a letter that reached the President containing allegations he was enriching himself in office. 

"The President had earlier asked a few questions of Mr Sueno but the summary dismissal served as a warning that Mr Duterte would not countenance any questionable or legally untenable decisions by any member of the Cabinet," Abella's statement read.

"The Secretary had, in fact, been instrumental in convincing the President to run for election, but this did not deter the President from pursuing his drive for a trustworthy government by addressing issues like corruption," he continued.

Sueno said his deputies were merely reacting to his recent moves to clip them of their powers. One of them denied this, saying they had in fact wanted Duterte to initiate a quiet probe into the reports but that Sueno himself made them public.

Group squabble?

The corruption allegations were contained in a letter reportedly sent to the President by the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte-National Executive Coordinating Committee (MRRD-NECC), the national volunteer organization that campaigned for him in last year's elections.

Sueno said he and the 3 undersecretaries belonged to that campaign group. He added they wanted someone else to head the department.

But in an Inquirer report, Castriciones denied Sueno's claim, stressing that they were merely "trying to ask the President to look into the allegations." Castriciones cited in particular the purchase of fire trucks from Austria, which were bought for P20 million when there were cheaper alternatives.

In their letter, the group reportedly said Sueno owned a hotel in South Cotabato and a trucking business – all beyond his means, they said – and got payoffs from illegal gambling. In a statement early Monday, Sueno said the hotel is owned by his younger brother and the trucks belong to his daughter.

On claims he received payola from gambling lords, Sueno told dzMM on Monday that he received offers but rejected them. 

Sueno is the second campaign supporter of Duterte from Davao to be fired from government in a little more than a month.

In early March, the President fired his campaign spokesman, Peter Laviña, as head of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) over what he told labor groups were corruption allegations. But Abella said then that Laviña resigned. 

Duterte dismissed Laviña also after he met with NIA directors who told him about Laviña's supposed overtures to them. Laviña denied this and said he chose to resign to spare the President these "embarrassing stories." – Rappler.com