TESDA chief denies aspirations for Interior Secretary position

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The chief of the country's job skills agency denied any aspirations for the post of Interior Secretary.

Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General Gene Mamondiong said this in an interview on CNN Philippines's The Source which aired on Monday.

"I am not interested in the position," said Mamondiong. "Ugali ko kasi, hindi ako naghahanap ng position [My disposition is, I don't go looking for positions]."

Mamondiong's name was brought up as a possible candidate after Sueno was kicked out of the Cabinet by President Rodrigo Duterte on April 3 amid allegations of corruption.

The powerful Department of Interior and Local Government is tasked with ensuring public safety nationwide and supervising local governments and law enforcement agencies including the Philippine National Police.

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

Sueno has maintained his innocence and said interior department undersecretaries were championing Mamondiong as his replacement.

Related: No due process in my dismissal - Sueno

When asked if he would accept the position if it was offered to him, Mamondiong said he "will cross the bridge when I reach it."

However, he added that he "[does] not see the possibility" of being appointed by Duterte.

Mamondiong said he is friends with the undersecretaries, but considers himself closer to Sueno.

He added that the undersecretaries never brought up the idea of him replacing Sueno, even when he regularly met with them on matters related to the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte-National Executive Coordinating Council.

"This was never discussed, kasi ayokong kinakausap ako (tungkol dito) dahil ang nakaupo diyan ay ating kaibigan. Hindi ko nga alam kung bakit nabanggit ang aking pangalan dito," said Mamondiong.

[Translation: This was never discussed. I don't like being talked to (about it) because the person sitting there is my friend. I have no idea why my name was mentioned.]

The coordinating council, which Sueno was a member of, previously wrote to Duterte accusing Sueno of abuse of authority.

Mamondiong refused to speculate on the allegations against Sueno, and reiterated that they "serve at the pleasure of the President."

"Napakahirap kasi bilang isang kaibigan, naramdaman ko ang naramdaman niya, at ako'y nasaktan," he said.

[Translation: It's difficult because as a friend, I feel what he feels, and I was also hurt.]

Sueno earlier belied any animosity between him and Mamondiong. "I believe [Mamondiong]. I treat him as friend," said Sueno, who was one of the key figures in the campaign that propelled Duterte to the presidency in May 2016.

Mamondiong thanked him.

"I assure you Mike, hindi ako interested doon sa posisyon mo," said Mamondiong. "Kung may paraan nga lang maibalik ka diyan, kaibigan, ay gagawin ko. But kilala mo ako."

[Translation: I assure you Mike, I'm not interested in your position. If there was only a way to bring you back, my friend, I would do it. But you know me.]

TESDA plans

The TESDA chief was "more interested" in continuing his work in the agency, which provides job skills and technical training nationwide for millions of Filipinos.

"I'm more interested in staying in TESDA, kasi nakita ko po na makakatulong tayo sa masang Pilipino, lalong lalo na yung... mga kapatid natin sa baba [because I can see we can really help the Filipinos of the masses, especially... our brothers and sisters who are poor]," he said.

He said that their agency now offers around 18,000 courses and gave out 55,000 scholarships in Metro Manila alone.

Mamondiong added that scholarships were also given to Metro Manila Development Authority enforcers and their families as the extra income could curb alleged bribery on the road.

"Nakita po natin ang reklamo ng mga taong ito at ang publiko ay laging nagkakaroon ng korupsyon sa kalsada," said Mamondiong.

[Translation: We noticed complaints from these people and the public that there is always corruption the streets.]

Other TESDA projects include a reintegration program for returning overseas Filipino workers and various courses for inmates.

He also also said scholarships from TESDA can be applied for online.

Filipinos can contact their office hotline for complaints about services.