Abella: DILG fire trucks deal pushing through

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 22) — A multi-billion peso contract for fire trucks that cost Ismael Sueno his job as Interior Secretary is pushing through, said Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella.

"It is a perfected contract and there is no temporary restraining order (TRO) that prevents its implementation," Abella said in a statement on April 20.

Abella was referring to the P1.42-billion contract for the second batch of 76 Rosenbauer fire trucks from Austria purchased by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) through a loan from the Austrian government.

However, it was a deal for the first 76 trucks delivered in 2013 under a separate P1.5 billion contract that led to Sueno's dismissal.

The Philippine government has yet to pay for the trucks, which were part of a deal made during the previous administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

Fire trucks deal irregular?

A volunteer group that helped Duterte win the presidency, the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte-National Executive Coordinating Council, said in a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte that the deal was overpriced.

In April 2016, former Abakada party list representative Jonathan de la Cruz filed a motion asking the Supreme Court to nullify the deal.

In September 2016, Interior Undersecretary JV Hinlo asked the DILG Legal Department's opinion on  whether or not the funds should be released for the trucks.

The DILG Legal Department in October 2016 recommended that Interior Secretary Sueno, defer his approval to request payment. It also advised the Bureau of Fire Protection to secure documents from the Commission on Audit justifying the request for payment of the trucks.

Sueno sacked

President Rodrigo Duterte dismissed Sueno in an April 3 Cabinet meeting, saying that he lost his temper when Sueno told him that he was not informed of the DILG's legal opinion on the fire trucks purchase.

"Parang ginagawa niya akong g--- [It's as if he was talking to, taking me for a fool]. 'So in that case, you might leave the room. You might leave the room because you're fired. I am dismissing you,'" the President said in an April 5 speech, recounting what he said to Sueno.

In a letter to Malacanang, Sueno said the government did not need to pay for the first batch of trucks until 2021. 

He also maintained that he never saw the DILG opinion, but the letter indicates that it was received by his office on November 2, 2016.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.