PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte fired former Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Chairman Dionisio Santiago not only for “blabbering” about the mega drug rehabilitation center but also for allegedly using government funds for junket trips with his mistress and for benefiting from drug money, his spokesman said on Monday.
Secretary Harry Roque said that President Duterte got hold of the DDB employees’ complaint against Santiago who was accused of going to Vienna, Austria and the United States with family members and a certain “girl Friday,” as well as accepting a mansion from suspected drug lord and late Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog.
“I would like to confirm that General Santiago was let go by the President not only because of his statements on the Mega Rehab Center. He was also let go because of complaints that General Santiago was using taxpayers’ money for junket trips,” Roque said in a news conference.
“There were also complaints that General Santiago may have accepted consideration from major drug players. Well, the complaints specified… that General Santiago may have benefitted from a house which may have been given to him by the late Parojinog. That’s a complaint on file with the Office of the President. It was [filed]by the union of DDB,” Roque added.
Based on the complaint lodged by the DDB Employees Union dated October 25, Santiago brought himself, his family, and six other DDB employees whom his accusers claimed were unqualified to travel to Vienna to attend a drug conference at the government’s expense.
A similar incident, the DDB employees claimed, was repeated when Santiago went to the United States for a “business trip” with his supposed favorite DDB employees for a briefing before the UN Commission on Narcotics Drugs.
“For your information, for both meetings, attendance only requires the presence of the DDB Chairman [as stated]in the official invitation sent by the UN Secretariat. Nothing more. This is an extravagant use of government resources and abuse of authority,” the employees’ complaint read.
The DDB employees also identified Dionisio’s alleged mistress, Edith Julie Mendoza, as his girl Friday and coffee server.
“We believe that our Chairman, General Santiago, is a liability to your administration. As aired on TV5 [in a]news [report]by Mr. Gary de Leon in August, he (Santiago) reportedly was a recipient of a big Ozamiz mansion given by the Parojinog family during his stint as director of PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency),” the employees added.
Almost two weeks ago, Santiago was fired by the President after the then DDB chief said that the 10,000-bed capacity drug rehabilitation in Nueva Ecija was a mistake and impractical in combating the drug menace.
Santiago argued that the money that funded the construction of the facility should have been used to build small-scale rehabilitation centers at the barangay (village) level where family support would be available to drug dependents who would want to change.
Roque, however, admitted that there was no certainty that the government would file criminal charges against Santiago whom the President fired last November 7.
“This (firing of Santiago) is without prejudice to further criminal investigation. But as you see, the Office of the President only has jurisdiction over the administrative aspect of the case. The criminal aspect will have to be taken up by the Ombudsman given that all these officials are within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan,” Roque said.
“The most that we could do in the Executive, as part of the administrative process, is to fire them, which is the ultimate sanction ‘but without prejudice to criminal liability,” Roque added.