Sueno dismissal sends 'very strong signal' vs corruption – lawmakers

MANILA, Philippines – By sacking Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno, President Rodrigo Duterte has sent a "very strong message" against corruption, administration-allied lawmakers said on Tuesday, April 4.

"The President is sending a very strong message – the President is not corrupt, and he will not tolerate any corruption in government. Bosom buddies, allies, even those instrumental in his election campaign," Davao City 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles said in a statement.

"Like the President said, even a 'whiff' of a scandal, he will not hesitate to kick you out," Nograles added.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella announced that Duterte fired Sueno after a Cabinet meeting on Monday night, April 3, because of "loss of trust and confidence."

Sueno was sacked after he accused 3 of his undersecretaries – John Castriciones, Jesus Hinlo, and Emily Padilla – of being behind the letter that reached the President, alleging he was enriching himself in office.

According to Muntinlupa City Representative Ruffy Biazon, Duterte "showed remarkable political will" in firing Sueno since the latter was a "prime mover" in the President's campaign. 

"Trust and confidence of a president in his appointee should be absolute. This is an example of appointees serving at the pleasure of the president. Importantly, it shows his intolerance of corruption within his administration," said Biazon.

Duterte earlier fired another key supporter based on corruption allegations – his campaign spokesman, Peter Laviña, as head of the National Irrigation Administration – in early March.

Duterte gov't 'imploding'

Opposition lawmakers, however, said Sueno's dismissal showed a "crack" in the Duterte administration. 

"This shows the crack and disunity in the Duterte administration because this is an offshoot of allegations forwarded by the Usecs (undersecretaries) against the secretary. It's a powerplay which infests not only in the DILG but other departments as well," said Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, who filed the first impeachment complaint against the President.

His sentiments were echoed by Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin.

"Less than a year into its term, President Duterte's administration is imploding. It speaks volumes about how incoherent and ungovernable a coalition built on sand is," said Villarin.

He further warned Sueno's dismissal may pave the way for the appointment of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). Marcos, who lost a vice presidential bid, can only be appointed to a government post after the one-year ban on losing candidates lapses in May.

But Duterte already said in February that Marcos was "not interested" in heading the department, seen as a pivotal post for politicians eyeing higher office.

The President's haste in acting on allegations against Laviña and Sueno is markedly different from how he dealt with complaints against another appointee and supporter, actor-turned-Tourism Promotions Board chief operations officer Cesar Montano. (READ: Duterte backs Cesar Montano amid corruption allegations) – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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