MANILA— Former Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) chief Dionisio Santiago was removed from office by President Rodrigo Duterte not only due to his statements against the mega rehabilitation project but also due to allegations of junkets and receiving favors from major drug personalities, Malacañang said Monday.
“I would like to confirm that General Santiago was let go by the President not only because of his statements on the Mega Rehab Centers being a mistake,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said during a Palace briefing.
“He was also let go because of complaints that General Santiago was using taxpayers’ money for junkets abroad. There were also complaints that General Santiago may have accepted consideration from major drug players,” Roque said.
He said the complaints against Santiago were filed by the DDB Employees Union (DDB-EU) to the Office of the President through a letter dated October 25, 2017.
According to the complaint, Santiago went to Vienna, Austria with his family and six unqualified and favorite DDB employees to attend an ordinary Narcotic Drug Intercessional meeting at government expense.
The complainants alleged that also included in his delegation was his “girl Friday and coffee server.”
The DDB-EU likewise protested Santiago’s trip to the United States, allegedly bringing with him his “mistress and selective favorite DDB employees.”
The complaint letter alleged that in both instances, only the presence of the DDB chair is required, constituting abuse of authority and extravagant use of government resources.
Roque said that the complaint also alleged that General Santiago may have benefitted from a house which may have been given to him by the late Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog when Santiago was still head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
Santiago served as PDEA chief from 2006 to 2011.
“We believe, our Chairman, General Santiago is a liability to administration previously as aired on TV5 Aksyon Sa Tanghali news by Mr. Gary de Leon last August 2017 reportedly said that he was a recipient of big Ozamiz mansion given by the Parojinog family during his stint as Director of PDEA,” the complaint read.
Roque said that while the complaints against Santiago have yet to be resolved, his firing sends a strong message to the people in government.
“It’s a very strong message to the bureaucracy: the President will not tolerate junkets, unnecessary travels abroad,” he said.
Last Saturday, Duterte said he would remove from office all government officials who go to unauthorized foreign trips using government money.
“For those guy who have been using money of the government, just easily going in and out of travel upon the invitation of maski sinong mga seminar-seminar and they are easy really just to, some of them without getting a permit and wasting the money of the people, I have to ask them to resign,” the President said.
Roque said that Santiago’s firing also showed President Duterte’s determination to rid the government of graft and corruption.
“That shows his resolve against graft and corruption. As far as he is concerned, you don’t even have to be proven. If you’re tainted in any way by corruption, he will not hesitate to fire individuals. He has done so many times in the past and General Santiago is only the latest of them,” Roque said.
The President has repeatedly said that he would not hesitate to fire any government official, even his closest friends, if there is even “a whiff of corruption.”
Last February, Duterte fired Peter Laviña, who served as his campaign spokesman, following allegations of receiving “kickbacks” from contractors at the National Irrigation Authority (NIA).
In April, former Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno was sacked by the President due to corruption allegations over the irregular purchase of the Rosenbauer firetrucks from Austria.