MANILA, Philippines - Infighting continues among the President’s men and women.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno is at loggerheads with three of his undersecretaries who accuse him of corruption and other abuses.
Sueno told The STAR he asked President Duterte in a meeting last month to remove the three undersecretaries – John Castriciones for operations, Jesus Hinlo for public safety and Emilie Padilla for legislative liaison and special concerns – who also wanted him out because of various allegations against him.
Sueno said he handed the President a letter detailing his sentiments and cited “irreconcilable differences” with his subordinates.
Sueno, Castriciones, Hinlo and Padilla are all members of the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte-National Executive Coordinating Council Committee (MRRD-NECC) that campaigned for the President in the May 2016 elections.
The department has five undersecretaries. The two others are Austere Panadero for local government and Catalino Cuy for peace and order.
Sueno said the three undersecretaries were the ones moving for his ouster and pushing for Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director general Guiling Mamondiong as his replacement.
Sueno’s move was in reaction to a four-page unsigned letter, a copy of which was obtained by The STAR, containing the allegations against Sueno and addressed to Duterte.
The STAR tried but failed to contact the three undersecretaries.
Labeled as “confidential memorandum” to the President, the letter read: “We urgently pray to you Mr. President to please act with dispatch if you so decide to remove Mike Sueno from his post, otherwise he will create more harm against the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) and cause injustice to the Filipino people by abusing his power and position.”
Sueno denied all the accusations against him in the letter and issued clarifications.
“There is a new hotel in Marbel, South Cotabato which is suspiciously owned by Sec. Sueno, although he alleges that this property belongs to his brother. His farm in South Cotabato which used to have only one nipa hut prior to his being a secretary, now has several expensive structures being built,” the letter read.
Sueno said the property really belongs to his brother.
The letter said Sueno recently purchased several trucks for his personal rice business and his grandson police official, identified only as “Senior Supt. Sintin” and “who has a position during the time of President Noynoy,” is known to be the DILG chief’s collector in many illegal gambling activities.
“Sueno has pursued the payment of the Rossenbauer firetrucks despite the fact there is a pending case in the Supreme Court. Worse, he with his family, personally went to Austria and made side trips to other countries to pursue a second delivery of 76 firetrucks which caused more or less P20 million compared to a firetruck which can be purchased for more or less P7 million only,” the letter read.
Sueno clarified the issue on firetrucks was a government-to-government transaction, which was made during the previous administration. “It was a 76 percent grant and 24 percent loan. It’s an ODA (overseas development assistance),” he said.
The letter also said Sueno tried to influence the Task Force Agila, the investigating team of the narco-mayors in the listing of the President, to clear a mayor from Misamis Occidental.
Sueno said TF Agila has its own set of officials and he could have not interfered in its operations.
The letter noted Sueno authorized a mayor to join the Washington trip regarding illegal drugs when in fact the local official was included in the President’s list of known narco-politicians under investigation by Task Force Agila of the DILG.
“The delegation to Washington DC was prepared by (the) Local Government Academy and I was not even part of the trip,” Sueno said.
The letter said there are more complaints and charges against Sueno that need to be investigated.
“Nonetheless, he is inefficient and incapable of the position he occupies. We hope and pray that if there is a new secretary to be appointed, then he would cause the investigation of the afore stated incidents,” it said.
Sueno said he felt betrayed since he personally followed up the appointment of the three undersecretaries in Malacañang.
But he said the three were not his personal choices. “Pinapasok niya ’yung tatlo (He had the three enter the department) to prepare the post for him,” Sueno said, referring to Mamondiong.
“Last Monday, the three undersecretaries sought an audience with me but I said I will not meet them anymore,” he added.
“We all serve under the pleasure of the President and if the President decides to keep the three undersecretaries, I will not give them any power. Mahirap na,” Sueno further said.
The letter said Sueno is using all his powers as secretary of the DILG to force the three undersecretaries to resign because of his “mistaken belief” that they were the ones behind his ouster.
The letter said Sueno initiated actions to stop the three undersecretaries in the performance of their limited functions as well as investigations to pin them down on trumped-up charges.
The letter said this was meant to destroy their credibility and to preempt his looming ouster.
They were initially hesitant to report Sueno’s abuses in the department but the secretary had gone too far, the officials said.
The letter noted the three officials tried to understand Sueno but as months passed, they saw that the DILG secretary had become more interested in pursuing his own interests as manifested by his policies and activities.
According to the undersecretaries, Sueno spelled out his policy to them: “Your loyalty should be to me (Sueno) and not to the President.”
Based on the letter, Sueno also maintained and strengthened the powers of Panadero and assistant secretary Esther Aldana, head executive assistant to Jo Leysa, all well-known supporters and loyalists of former DILG chief Manuel Roxas II, by giving them powers to control all the projects and programs of the department with huge funding.
However, Panadero is a career officer and has been in the DILG for over two decades now.
The letter added Sueno revised the delegation of authority so much so all signing authorities are controlled by the three “yellow protégés” of Roxas. The head executive assistant, who is not even a presidential appointee, has more powers than any of the three MRRD undersecretaries, the letter claimed.
The appointment of Aldana as assistant secretary for finance and administration was also assailed.
The letter added Sueno refused to investigate past transactions of Roxas that were allegedly tainted with corruption.
It said Sueno’s wife was likewise the one in charge of many contracts and other transactions.
By Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star)