• Palace hits sacked SSS director


    PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte fired Social Security System (SSS) commissioner Jose Gabriel “Pompee” La Viña because of his repeated requests for millions of pesos to fund media programs and for waging a “vilification” campaign against the agency’s executives, Malacañang disclosed on Saturday.

    In a statement, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. cited the reasons behind Duterte’s firing of La Viña, which include the latter’s request for millions of pesos to fund a social media program and a “media advertising program.”

    “Former Commissioner La Viña demanded a budget of P26 million to fund his ‘social media’ project with him as TV host. This was denied. He then requested for a budget of P1.6 million per month for a media advertising program which was also denied,” Roque said.

    “The President has mentioned time and again that he will not tolerate even a whiff of corruption,” the Palace official added.

    La Viña, who was Duterte’s social media strategist during the 2016 presidential campaign, earlier accused four SSS officials – executive vice president for investments Rizaldy Capulong, equities investment division chief Reginal Candelaria, equities product development head Ernesto Francisco Jr. and chief actuary George Ongkeko—of profiting illegally by trading stock markets for their personal accounts.

    The four SSS executives were temporarily relieved following the allegations hurled against them. Candelaria and Ongkeko later quit their posts.

    Roque said the “vilification campaign” La Viña launched against the four SSS officials “who crossed his path,” leading to the resignation of two of them, was also a reason for his sacking.

    “Despite an ongoing investigation, Mr. La Viña called a press conference and spoke against these four executives,” he said.

    Roque noted that La Viña requested to accredit seven brokers to handle SSS investments.

    “The accreditation was denied because these brokers could not meet the requirements,” Roque said.

    “Again, let this be a reminder to all public officials that the President is serious in curbing corruption and has strong resolve to promote good governance,” he added.

    On Tuesday, President Duterte mentioned that the state-run pension fund was involved in “abuse of public funds.”

    The President did not specify who he was referring to but his statement came a day after Roque announced that the appointments of La Viña and SSS chairman Amado Valdez would no longer be renewed.

    Roque said the services of La Viña and Valdez were terminated so as not to prolong a rift in the agency.

    “In my view, the President is replacing them because he thinks the SSS will be more efficient if there is no rift in the SSS board,” Roque said during a news conference in Kalinga.

    The terms of La Viña and Valdez as SSS commissioners expired on June 30, 2017. Both were on a “hold-over capacity.”


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