PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s former campaign spokesman Peter Tiu Laviña has resigned as administrator of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) amid allegations of corruption.
“NIA Administrator Peter Laviña has tendered his resignation amidst attempts to vilify, discredit and malign him and to spare the President from any embarrassment due to these attempts,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters, quoting a statement from Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr.
The Palace official denied reports Duterte told labor groups on Monday evening that he had fired Laviña, a former journalist and councilor of Davao City.
Abella said Laviña’s resignation was a “proactive action on his part.”
“Let’s go by what was stated – he tendered his resignation…It was not mentioned that he was sacked,” Abella said.
Duterte appointed Laviña as NIA head in November last year. Before his stint as campaign and transition committee spokesman, Laviña worked as special assistant to then Davao City mayor Duterte.
In a speech on February 24, Duterte hinted that he had fired somebody from the government, but did not mention any name.
“When I said, there will be no corruption, there will be no corruption. As a matter of fact, I fired last night, someone from Davao, for simply making a remark about a…and I told him, ‘Even a whiff of corruption, I will really remove you.’ I am doing my part,” the President said.
In a Facebook post, Laviña said he “quietly left the government” amid rumors he had asked money from NIA contractors, which he denied.
“I have been vilified in the past; my name used, abused and maligned. Recently, there had been efforts to discredit me again. There are rumors circulating that I have asked money from NIA contractors. These are not true!” Laviña said.
Jose Sony Matula, president of the Federation of Free Workers, said Duterte disclosed his removal of Laviña as NIA administrator before the start of the president’s meeting with labor leaders on Monday.
Matula said Duterte removed Laviña after obtaining information that the former campaign spokesman had forced contractors of various NIA projects to allot 40 percent of contract prices to kickbacks.
NELSON S. BADILLA