Duterte on firing Sueno: 'I could never be misinformed'

MANILA, Philippines – As dismissed interior secretary Ismael Sueno continued to deny corruption allegations, President Rodrigo Duterte maintained that he had sound basis to fire the official.

"I could never be misinformed. I'm a lawyer," Duterte said in a chance interview with reporters in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, on Thursday, April 6.

"When I fire you, diyan mismo, alam ko ang ginagawa ko. The first whiff, ang unang singaw – and maski hindi totoo – ba-bye tayo (When I fire you, then and there, I know what I am doing. The first whiff – and even if it isn't true – we'll say goodbye)," he added.

At a send-off ceremony for Sueno at the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) office hours earlier, the former Cabinet official said he is a "willing victim" of the President's campaign against corruption but admitted he was "very hurt" by Duterte's abrupt dismissal of him.

He vehemently denied the accusations hurled against him by 3 DILG undersecretaries and fellow Duterte campaigners John Castriciones, Jesus Hinlo, and Emily Padilla. (READ: Duterte 'misinformed' about me – Sueno)

The sacked DILG chief is accused of acquiring a hotel in South Cotabato and trucks for a family business, which were all beyond his means. He is also alleged to have facilitated the purchase and delivery of trucks from Austria that were more expensive than from other sources, and to have accepted bribes from gambling lords.

Sueno had said the hotel belongs to his brother, and the trucks to his daughter. In his statement on Tuesday, April 4, he said he had refused the bribe offers of gambling lords, and defended the Austrian deal as "a perfected contract entered into by the previous administration."

Duterte had zeroed in on Sueno's trip to Austria to personally ensure the delivery of the trucks. Sueno defended himself by saying he had to make sure the trucks were in good condition, as provided under the contract.

At the DILG office on Thursday, Sueno said his wife and daughter shouldered their own expenses when they joined him on the Austria trip. He also pointed out that the official trip was authorized by the Office of the Executive Secretary.

Duterte has designated Undersecretary Catalino Cuy as acting DILG chief until he names a permanent secretary.

Two days after firing Sueno, Duterte sacked a Palace undersecretary for supposedly supporting additional rice imports, which the President insists is disadvantageous to Filipino farmers.

Duterte said he is set to fire two more officials soon. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

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 pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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