Evasco says ‘good relationship’ with Duterte intact

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte may have removed him from the National Food Authority (NFA) Council, but Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr still says their friendship and working relationship are intact.

"I can never break the good relationship I have with the President, a relationship we have built through the years with the people we work and serve with," Evasco said in a press statement on Tuesday, April 17.

"I can never break the trust given to me by our President Rodrigo Roa Duterte especially when he appointed me to the position I am in now," he added.

Earlier on Tuesday, Malacañang announced that supervision of the NFA would be reverted to the Department of Agriculture. Because of this new set-up, the NFA Council would be headed by the agriculture secretary.

The official announcement did not explicitly say Evasco was removed as the Council's chairman. Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque only said it was a matter of course that Evasco would no longer be part of the Council since the NFA was no longer under his office. 

Evasco said he respects Duterte's decision to reorganize the Council. 

He also laid out all the achievements of the Council under his watch: 20 meetings, guidelines for more transparent and inclusive procurement of NFA rice, and the importation of 805,200 metric tons of rice without government spending a single cent. 

Evasco was also proud of the how the Council made decisions as a collegial body and based on reports from various agencies – the National Economic and Development Authority, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Department of Trade and Industry, Land Bank of the Philippines, and the Development Bank of the Philippines.

No corruption issues

Though he is fine with losing supervision over two agencies – the NFA and the Philippine Coconut Authority, now both under the DA –  Evasco hinted at efforts to stain his name with corruption allegations.

He spoke of "the effort of some quarters to discredit my name and that of the council."

Rappler sources have said that a Cabinet member has been accusing Evasco of being on the payroll of private traders, a claim Evasco has vehemently denied.

In his statement, Evasco pointed to his track record that shows not once in his 20 years of government service (including 3 terms as mayor of Maribojoc town in Bohol) has he ever "been charged with Malfeasance, Misfeasance or Nonfeasance."

He said he has never been investigated or charged with abuse of power.

In his statement, Evasco posed a challenge to the new NFA Council chairman, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.

"I call the new Chairperson to take advantage of what we have started and continue the systems transformation can so that it can take root in NFA. At this critical juncture, today is the best time for NFA to move towards being a true partner of the farmer in delivering better quality services," he said.

Though he is no longer in the NFA Council, Evasco remains Cabinet Secretary with supervision over 10 agencies, a mandate given to him by Duterte through his very first executive order.

Evasco has stood by the President's side for 3 decades, serving as his campaign manager in his first ever election in Davao City, then as his chief of staff, then as campaign manager in the 2016 presidential elections, and now as Cabinet Secretary. (READ: Jun Evasco, the former NPA rebel in the Palace 'snake pit') – 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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