Ex-DDB chair Santiago sorry for offending Duterte

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Highlights

  • Santiago felt his comment on mega-rehab center was taken out of context
  • Santiago says his family paid for their own travel expenses
  • Santiago says his colleague was mistaken for a mistress
  • Santiago denies accepting bribes from Parojinogs

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 22) — Former Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Chief Dionisio Santiago on Wednesday said he will apologize to President Rodrigo Duterte for his comment on the billion-peso mega-drug rehabilitation center.

"If I offended the President, I'm apologizing sa kanya [to him]," Santiago told CNN Philippines' The Source.

He, however, believes if the entire interview had been properly explained to Duterte,  the President would have understood why he said the rehabilitation center was a "miscalculation." 

Duterte has said he was offended by the former chairman's remark. Santiago previously told The Source the government should work to complete regional and local centers instead.

Related: Duterte 'offended' by former DDB Chief's remarks on mega rehab project

The retired military general was appointed in July after his predecessor, Benjamin Reyes, was fired for saying studies showed one million users, instead of Duterte's four million estimate.

Now, Santiago said his army orientation keeps him from questioning Duterte's decision to fire him, adding "the boss is always right."

"When I serve, it should be full trust and confidence. If there is a speck of doubt ang President sa loyalty ko and my functioning as a government official, hindi kami pwedeng magsama," he said.

[If the President has a speck of doubt over my loyalty and (functionality) as a government official, we cannot work together.]

Santiago denies bribery, corruption allegations

The former DDB chief also dismissed allegations he misused government funds and received favors from an alleged narcopolitican.

Malacanang on Monday announced it received a letter of complaint, supposedly from the DDB employees' union, accusing Santiago of going on extravagant trips with his family, mistress, and favored employees.

In particular, the letter mentioned two trips to New York and Vienna, Austria. Santiago said he only brought his wife to Vienna, and on his salary.

"It came from government, pero sweldo ko 'yun [that was my salary]... Siguro may karapatan ako. Masama ba isama 'yung asawa ko, nagbayad naman siya?" said Santiago.

[Translation: I think I have the right. Is it wrong to bring my wife, when she paid for it?]

The former chairman explained he earned P200,000 regularly as DDB chairperson, most of which he gave to his wife. He said they spent P76,000 for her travel. He added his son works for Delta Airlines, and employee perks allowed them to travel in business class for a total of only $14.

Santiago said seven of his family members — composed of his son, daughter-in-law, three grandchildren, a niece and her baby — traveled separately to Bonn, Germany, and just met Santiago and his wife in Vienna.

He added his son earns $33 per hour, and his grandchild, a programmer at Google, earns $100 an hour.

"Wala pa naman karapatan yung apo ko na ilibre 'yung tatay at nanay niya, 'yung pamilya, na magkano lang iyon?" he said.

[Doesn't he have a right to treat out his parents and family, when it costs little for him?]

His family paid approximately $210 for accommodations for three days, and Santiago said he has the receipts and documents to prove it.

The retired military general also denied he traveled with a mistress, a supposed "Ms. Edith Julie 'Judith' Mendoza."

Mendoza, whom he had known as "Edong," acted as his secretary and went with him to New York for a meeting with the United Nations on the drug war.

"Meron akong parang secretary doon... siya magrereceive sa iyo, tapos siya 'yung nagfa-farm out ng documents. Ang alam ko, si Edong siya. Tinanong ko, 'Edong, sino ba tong si Judith?' 'Sir, ako iyan,'" said Santiago.

[I have someone who is like a secretary... She receives guests, and farms out documents. I know her by Edong. I asked her, 'Edong, who is this Judith?' 'Sir, that's me.']

Contrary to allegations he traveled with employees he favored, Santiago said his companions were recommended by DDB's travel committee.

The letter detailing the allegations has since been denied by the undersigned, a certain Baby Herrera Santiago, supposedly a DDB employee.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police is looking into the authenticity of the signature.

"Baby Herrera, for your information, used to be my secretary. She's denying it. Sabi niya hindi siya ganyan pumirma [She said she doesn't sign like that]," said Santiago.

 

When asked about the questionable origin of the letter, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday said he never said the letter was "gospel truth."

"I was very clear, if there are allegations in a complaint, we did not say they are the truth and that is why I understand, General Santiago was somehow hurt," said Roque.

Related: Malacañang on complaint vs ex-DDB Chief Santiago: We never said it was verified

He also said the allegations did not factor into Santiago's forced resignation, contrary to an initial statement on Monday.

Related: Drugs Board chief asked to resign for accepting bribes from narcopolitician - Palace

Santiago also denied receiving a house from Ozamiz Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, an alleged narcopolitician killed in a drug operation last July.

He said he could have been mistaken for another "Tagoy," which he explained in a radio interview was a nickname Philippine Military Academy graduates gave to those with the last name Santiago.

"Basta Tagoy iyan, hindi ako... Basta hindi Tagoy from my family iyan," said Santiago.

[That Tagoy is not me... and it's not from my family.]