PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte fired former Dangerous Drugs Board chairman Dionisio Santiago not only for “blabbering” about the “mega” drug rehabilitation center in Nueva Ecija being a “big mistake,” but also for using government money for trips abroad with a “mistress” and accepting a house from the Parojinog drug syndicate, the Palace said on Monday.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte got hold of the DDB employees’ complaint against Santiago, where the ex-DDB chief was accused of having a junket trip in Vienna, Austria and the United States with family members and a certain “girl Friday,” as well as receiving a house from suspected drug lord and the late Ozamiz City mayor Reynaldo Parojinog who was brutally killed in a police raid last July.
“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 he was using taxpayers’ money for junket trips. I’m only quoting from the complaint filed against General Santiago, and it is our position that although the stated reason for the fact that he has ceased to be director of the agency is because of his complaints about the mega rehab, there was also a complaint against him filed by the union of DDB, which of course had to be looked into,” Roque said in a news conference.
“There were also complaints that General Santiago may have accepted consideration from major drug players…that General Santiago may have benefited 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, his family, and six other DDB employees travelled to Vienna, Austria to attend a narcotic drugs intersessional meeting.
The DDB employees also claimed that Santiago went to the United States for a “business trip” with his supposed favorite DDB employees for a briefing before the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
The DDB employees claimed Santiago brought a “mistress,” Edith Julie Mendoza, his “girl Friday” and coffee server, to his trips.
“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.
“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.
Lastly, the complainants also alleged that Santiago designated his DDB predecessor, Benjamin Reyes, as acting DDB chairman while he was abroad, even if Reyes was already fired by President Duterte last May.
Reyes was fired because he stood by the DDB data that there were 1.8 million drug users in the country—a figure which was contrary to President Duterte’s figure of 3 to 4 million drug users.
“Mr. Reyes’ continued stay [in DDB]is being tolerated by no less than General Santiago in defiance of a Presidential order,” the employees added.
Almost two weeks ago, Santiago was fired by the President after the DDB chief said the 10,000-bed capacity drug rehabilitation center in Nueva Ecija was a mistake and impractical in combating the drug menace.
Santiago argued that the money used to build the facility should have gone to small-scale rehabilitation centers at the barangay (village) level where family support would be available for drug dependents.
Roque, however, wasn’t sure if the government would file criminal charges against Santiago, who was fired by the President 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, a lawyer, said.