PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte fired Interior Secretary Ismael “Mike” Sueno, the former South Cotabato governor who helped convince him to run for president, over corruption allegations following a Cabinet meeting Monday night.
News of the firing leaked early Tuesday and was later confirmed by Malacañang and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd
In a statement, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella cited loss of trust and confidence as the reason for Sueno’s removal as secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
“The President had earlier asked a few questions of Mr. Sueno but the summary dismissal served as a warning that Mr. Duterte would not countenance any questionable or legally untenable decisions by any member of the Cabinet,” Abella said.
“The Secretary had, in fact, been instrumental in convincing the President to run for election, but this did not deter the President from pursuing his drive for a trustworthy government by addressing issues like corruption,” he added.
Sueno’s departure followed the sacking in March of Peter Tiu Laviña, the former Duterte campaign spokesman, as head of the National Irrigation Administration also over corruption allegations.
Aguirre confirmed Sueno’s firing in an interview over radio station dzMM, saying the dismissal of the DILG chief was made in the Cabinet meeting Monday night.
On Monday, Sueno denied the allegations of corruption said to have been made by his three undersecretaries, John Castriciones, Jesus Hinlo and Emily Padilla, in a confidential memorandum to the President.
Sueno admitted he had received a request to protect gambling syndicates in exchange for payoffs, but said he turned it down.
“There is a group that insisted that I take the payoffs from illegal gambling. They got in touch with the gambling lords about the payola [and]I rejected their offer,” he said in a statement.
Sueno also admitted he has a grandson who holds a “high position” at the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame, but said he had no influence over the police officer.
He also denied owning a hotel in Marbel, South Cotabato, saying it belongs to his brother.
“My brother is probably 20 times richer than me. I do not have the financial capacity to build such a big structure,” Sueno said. JEFF ANTIPORDA