MALACAÑANG on Saturday said Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade still enjoyed President Rodrigo Duterte’s trust amid calls for the Cabinet official’s resignation.
Tugade has been dragged into the controversy over last month’s arrest of more than 1,000 illegal Chinese workers in Chinese tycoon Jack Lam’s online gaming operations at the Clark Special Economic Zone. Tugade was president of Clark Development Corp., the zone’s operator, in the previous administration.
Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Marie Banaag acknowledged calls for Tugade to resign but said: “With barely a few months, he is really doing his best.”
“Secretary Tugade, as a presidential appointee, enjoys the trust and confidence of the President,” Banaag told government-run radio station DZRB.
“We acknowledge that there are sectors calling for Secretary Tugade to resign but then, we can see, they are doing their best also at their end to solve the traffic problem and everything that concerns the DOTr (Department of Transportation),” she said.
Banaag issued the statement amid calls for Tugade to resign over his alleged connection with Lam, who was ordered arrested by Duterte over charges of bribery and economic sabotage.
The group Road Users Protection Advocates earlier said it was under Tugade’s term at Clark when Lam’s operations inside the Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino flourished. It claimed Tugade could have benefited from Lam’s alleged illegal online gambling operations.
But the DOTr has dismissed such claims, saying Tugade knew Lam only as one of the locators in Clark, but that didn’t mean he was involved in wrongdoing.
“It is not CDC that grants permits for online gambling,” the DOTr said in a statement.
“In fact, Secretary Tugade was very strict in granting BPO (business process outsourcing) permits to make sure they were not being used as fronts for online gambling,” it added.