MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang walked back on its statement that Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) general manager Alexander Balutan was fired by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo on Monday, March 11, "clarified" that Balutan had resigned and had formalized this through a letter addressed to the Office of the President.
"We wish to clarify that former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office General Manager Alexander Balutan has indeed tendered his resignation through a letter submitted to the Office of the President," said Panelo.
But a source close to the President told Rappler after Panelo's clarification that Balutan had been "compelled" to resign. In many speeches, Duterte has said he dismisses certain government officials by asking them to resign, to spare them from the humiliation of an outright sacking.
Only 3 days ago, Panelo had said Balutan's services were "terminated" due to "serious allegations of corruption." This time, he was more careful with his words, using the phrase "cessation from office" to refer to what happened to Balutan.
Panelo explained why he had supposedly gotten it wrong the first time. Balutan's resignation letter was supposedly received by Malacañang after Panelo released his statement.
"The said written communication was, however, formally received by the OP only after the Palace has already announced his cessation from office," he said.
Panelo has not responded to Rappler's query on when exactly Balutan submitted his resignation letter.
Balutan, a former military general, had resigned "out of delicadeza" given various corruption allegations involving the PCSO. Balutan has also asked Duterte for a "fair and impartial investigation."
Two sources had told Rappler that Balutan was fired by Duterte. Another source had said Balutan was suddenly called to Malacañang on Friday for reasons undisclosed.
Balutan recently posted on his Facebook wall about his vow to resign should the President's office or Congress ask him to do something he could not stomach.
“I told all PCSO employees when I assumed as general manager in 2016 that if somebody from the OP [Office of the President] or the Congress asks or orders me to do something which I cannot stomach... I WILL RESIGN,” Balutan said.
He continued: “I did not ask for this position. PRRD [President Rodrigo Roa Duterte] retired me early from the Marines to help him run his administration. In silence, I did and I excelled. I did not ask anything from the president in return. The rest is history,” he said. – 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.