Abella: Duterte dismisses DILG Secretary Sueno due to 'loss of trust and confidence'

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 4) — President Rodrigo Duterte dismissed Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ismael Sueno in light of corruption allegations hurled against him.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement that the President removed Sueno after a Monday night Cabinet meeting due to "loss of trust and confidence."

"The President had earlier asked a few questions of Mr. Sueno but the summary dismissal served as a warning that Mr. Duterte would not countenance any questionable or legally untenable decisions by any member of the Cabinet," Abella said.

In a Tuesday press briefing, Abella said Duterte looked into possibly illegal public transactions that Sueno may have entered into, which formed part of the reason for his dismissal.

"The President is very serious about restoring trust in the government," he said. "The major implication is that the President will not countenance even a whiff of corruption."

Sueno's dismissal comes after the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte-National Executive Coordinating Council (MRRD-NECC), in a confidential letter, accused Sueno of allegedly abusing his power as the DILG head.

The MRRD-NEC campaigned for Duterte in the 2016 elections.

In a Monday statement, Sueno denied the allegations, saying he and the President are both against corruption.

"Mula noon hanggang ngayon, malakas ang adbokasiya ko laban sa corruption," he said. "Pareho kami ng paniniwala at ng paninindigan ng Pangulong Duterte laban dito. Kaya imposible ang mga akusasyon nila laban sa akin."

[Translation: From the past to the present, my advocacy against corruption has been strong. President Duterte and I believe in and advocate for this. So it's impossible that their accusations against me are true.]

In addition, Philippine National Police spokesperson Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos told CNN Philippines' 'The Source' on Tuesday that they have been satisfied with Sueno's performance as DILG Secretary.

"Being part of the executive branch of the government, we serve under the pleasure of the President.," he said. "Changes of leadership happen regularly, and we are happy with the way that the Secretary has [been] the head of us."

 

Abella said the President has yet to say if Sueno will be investigated further.

Alleged vendetta

The Interior Secretary accused three of his undersecretaries, John Castriciones, Jesus V. Hinlo and Emily Padilla, of being behind the letter.

"They were resentful because he had to reassign some of the workload and projects to the other undersecretaries since nothing happened to the programs given to the said officials and nothing much is moving in terms of accomplishments," he said.

Sueno said he is saddened since the three were his colleagues in the MRRD-NECC.

"It appears that from the very start, they want my head and are out to discredit me because they want somebody else to head the Department," he said.

Defer to the President

Despite this, Sueno also said he would accept whatever the President decides.

"Whatever the President's decision may be, I believe that it will be a wise one," he said.

Duterte repetitively mentioned his goal of stopping corruption in the government, flaunting he already fired 92 officials from different departments in March alone.

"I have fired, although silently … And even a guy who was with me since 1988 when I started as mayor, all the years magkasama kami. But for a one simple… Sabi ko sa [I told the] Cabinet members, even a whiff (of corruption), whether or not totoo o hindi [it's true or not], you go," Duterte said Friday.

On March 1, National Irrigation Administration Chief Peter Tiu Laviña, one of the staunch supporters of Duterte, resigned from his post amid corruption allegations.

Read: Peter Laviña resigns as NIA chief

Marcos not considered as replacement

Meanwhile, Abella said in the briefing that no one has been chosen yet to replace Sueno. He also said "no comment, no mention and absolutely no reference" was made to former senator Bongbong Marcos, son of deposed strongman President Ferdinand Marcos.

 

Marcos is one of the people rumored to be appointed as Interior Secretary. The President has shown close ties to the Marcoses, which includes fulfilling his campaign promise of burying former President Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on November 2016.

Read: Marcos buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani

Abella: Duterte lost confidence on Sueno  

However, Duterte said in February 2017 that Marcos was "not interested" in the post.

CNN Philippines' correspondent Rex Remitio contributed to this report.