Corruption in the Philippines

‘A whiff of corruption, you’re out’: Notable Duterte admin exits and reappointments

Michael Bueza

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President Rodrigo Duterte's tough stance on corruption has cost many government officials their jobs. But some have been reappointed.

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MANILA, Philippines – “Even just a whiff of corruption, and you’re out.”

President Rodrigo Duterte’s tough stance on corruption has cost the jobs of many government officials.

Some of them were fired by Duterte himself – in many instances, during his impromptu speeches – for circumstances ranging from allegations of corruption to formal cases or complaints, while some resigned following major scandals.

The President’s men and women in the Cabinet have not been spared, either.

However, some axed officials later got reappointed to another post. Some of them have not faced repercussions so far in connection with the controversy that led to their exit.

Here’s a chart of notable firings, resignations, and reappointments in various government positions under the Duterte administration.

The listing below is arranged by the date of their departure. Not included in the chart are police and military reassignments, Cabinet secretaries who were rejected by the Commission on Appointments, and departures not caused by allegations of corruption.

Place your cursor or hover over each bar for more details.

Cabinet member
**Fired by agency


So far, 4 Cabinet members have either been fired by the President or have resigned from their posts.

Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno was axed during a Cabinet meeting in April 2017 for supposedly facilitating the implementation of a contract for fire trucks from Austria that cost around P20 million each. Sueno denied the allegations, which were brought up by 3 DILG undersecretaries.

Meanwhile, Information and Communications Technology Secretary Rodolfo Salalima resigned in September 2017 over “conflict of interest”. Salalima was an executive and chief legal counsel at telecommunications firm Globe Telecom. Duterte later claimed in a speech that he asked Salalima to resign for supposedly “favoring a company”. However, Salalima said “interference” and “corruption” in the department were the reasons behind his departure, according to a Philippine Daily Inquirer report.

Later in 2018, two more Cabinet members resigned: justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and tourism secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo. Aguirre left in April following the President’s supposed dissatisfaction with him over a series of controversies involving the Department of Justice. He is reportedly making a return, however, as he was nominated to the board of the Social Security System.

Teo’s exit was more controvesial. She was accused of “conflict of interest” after the Commission on Audit flagged payments for tourism ad placements in one of the shows of her brothers, Ben and Erwin Tulfo. Teo maintained there was no irregularity in the transaction, but she eventually resigned in May 2018.

Duterte has also axed at least two appointees of his predecessor Benigno Aquino III, thus cutting short their fixed terms.

Jose Vicente Salazar, chairman of the Energy Regulatory Commission, was dismissed in October 2017 after he was found guilty by the Office of the President in an administrative case against him. He had been placed in preventive suspension prior to his firing.

Chairperson Patricia Licuanan of the Commission on Higher Education was sacked by Duterte in January 2018 over alleged “excessive travels” and delays in the release of students’ allowances. But Licuanan had earlier announced her resignation after being asked by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to leave her post.

Fired or resigned?

Licuanan’s case was similar to at least 4 other departures, where Duterte said in a speech that he had fired them, even as some reports said they tendered their resignations.

This happened to two ex-deputy commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration and Duterte’s fraternity brothers, Al Argosino and Michael Robles. They were tagged in the alleged extortion of gaming tycoon Jack Lam.

Argosino and Robles announced their resignation on December 16, 2016. Then, early on December 17, Duterte said he had fired them. Despite their resignation, the two were charged with plunder by the Office of the Ombudsman and were ordered detained by the Sandiganbayan in April 2018.

In February 2017, National Irrigation Administration (NIA) chief and former Duterte campaign spokesman Peter Laviña was reportedly fired by the President for allegedly receiving “cuts” or kickbacks from projects, but Laviña said that he resigned.

Another case is that of former Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Chairman Dionisio Santiago, who was first asked to resign in November 2017 after he criticized the government’s mega drug rehabilitation facility in Nueva Ecija. But nearly two weeks later, Malacañang said he was fired for taking “junkets”, an accusation Santiago denied.

Notably, there were also the cases of ex-DDB chairman Benjamin Reyes and former acting PhilHealth chief Celestina de la Serna who were fired from their posts, but who remained in the agency as a member of their respective boards.


The President said in June 2018 that there would be “no second chances” for erring or fired government officials. But there had been cases where those who resigned or got fired due to controversy or corruption were reappointed to another post.

The first major reappointments involved Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials implicated in the P6.4-billion shabu shipment scandal. Three of them resigned in late 2017 following this controversy: BOC Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, Deputy Commissioner Gerardo Gambala, and Import Assessment Services Director Milo Maestrecampo.

However, just a few months later, they were reappointed: Faeldon as Deputy Administrator in the Office of Civil Defense, Gambala as director in the Office of Transportation Security, and Maestrecampo as Assistant Director General in the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines. However, the Ombudsman will be pursuing investigations on Faeldon over charges related to the shabu shipment case.

Another official tagged in the scandal, Vincent Philip Maronilla, was relieved as district collector of the Manila International Container Port in September 2017, but he remained in the BOC as he was reassigned to the BOC Compliance Monitoring Unit.

Maronilla later became district collector again, this time at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport until he was fired by Commissioner Isidro Lapeña in March 2018 for failing to meet revenue targets. His break would turn out to be short, because Duterte brought him back to BOC as assistant commissioner the following month.

The same thing happened for 3 of the 5 commissioners of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor whom Duterte publicly fired in December 2017.

Melissa Aradanas, cousin of Duterte’s partner Honeylet Avanceña, was reappointed to the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council in March 2018. Joan Lagunda returned to government as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources the following month, while Manuel Serra Jr was appointed member of the governing board of the Philippine Coconut Authority in June 2018.

Meanwhile, one official had been reappointed then transferred: Jose Gabriel “Pompee” La Viña, the social media director in Duterte’s 2016 presidential campaign. After his term as SSS Commissioner wasn’t renewed in February 2018, he was reappointed to the Department of Tourism as undersecretary in April, then transferred to the Department of Agriculture also as undersecretary just a few months later, in June. –

*Note: In the absence of exact dates of appointment of some officials, their starting dates indicated on the chart are based on the date of their oath-taking ceremony, or on the date approximated from news reports.

Photo credits: (top row) Faeldon, by Toto Lozano/Presidential Photo; Gambala, by Lito Boras/Rappler; Aradanas, from Facebook account; La Viña, from Facebook account; (bottom row) Licuanan, by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler; Aguirre, from Department of Justice; Sueno, by Darren Langit/Rappler; Teo, by Lito Boras/Rappler.

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Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.