February 25, 2018, 6:05 am
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Palace: Santiago fired for junketting

DIONISIO Santiago was fired by President Duterte as chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board early this month not just for his public statements regarding a mega-drug rehabilitation center, but for alleged irregularities like “junkets” abroad and acceptance of gifts from suspected drug lords, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said yesterday.

Roque said the DDB Employees’ Union (DDB-EU) submitted a letter of complaint to Duterte dated October 25, saying the retired military general had been “using taxpayers’ money for junkets abroad.”

“One of the complaints that reached the President was a trip to Austria, where in addition to bringing family members, General Santiago brought six of his closest personnel, including a girl Friday,” he said.

The girl Friday or office assistant was identified in the letter complaint as one Edith Julie Mendoza.

Another trip was to the US last September, with Santiago “allegedly bringing with him his alleged  mistress and selective favorite DDB employees,” Roque said.

The letter, signed by a Priscilla Herrera on behalf of the DDB-EU, said two trips were supposed to be for the Narcotic Drug Intercessional meeting where the “attendance only requires the presence of the DDB Chairman in the official invitation sent by the UN (United Nations) Secretariat and nothing more.”

“This is an extravagant use of government resource and abuse of authority,” the letter said.

Asked if Santiago has been properly investigated and accorded due process, Roque said, “Let’s just say that the complaint was overridden by, overtaken by events because the President himself said that he decided to fire General Santiago because of his statement that the mega-drug facility is a mistake.”

The letter complaint also said Santiago had been accused by one Gary de Leon of receiving a “big Ozamiz mansion from the Parojinogs when he was still the director of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.”

Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and 11 others were killed on July 30 in an encounter between police teams and the mayor’s men during a police search for illegal firearms raid on the mayor’s house.

The letter also said that during Santiago’s trips abroad, he designated Benjamin Reyes as acting DDB chairman. Reyes was relieved from the agency in May.

The complaint said Santiago retained Reyes at the DDB where he received salaries and allowances even “without a valid appointment.”

Duterte publicly announced Reyes’ sacking last May for contradicting government’s official date on the number of drug addicts in the country. Reyes has said that based on a DDB survey, there were only 1.8 million drugs users, much less than the 4 million figure being used by Duterte.

Roque said Santiago was fired as part of the President’s efforts to rid the government of corruption.

He noted that Duterte has been repeatedly saying he would fire any official tainted with just “even a whiff of corruption.” 

“That shows his resolve against graft and corruption. As far as he is concerned, you don’t even have to be proven guilty. If you’re tainted in anyway 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,” he said.

Santiago earlier this month said he had been told by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to resign because of his comments against the rehabilitation center. He said he did not mean to contradict the President and merely gave an unsolicited constructive criticism.

Duterte later said he was offended by Santiago’s statement and Santiago could have taken it up with him privately instead of making a public statement.

Last Saturday in Davao City, Duterte said he would fire officials who have gone on seminars or meetings abroad without his permission and using public funds. The dismissals would be made this week, he said.

Roque also said it would be up to the Ombudsman if a criminal case would be filed against Santiago.
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