PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday fired Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor chairman James Mark Terry Ridon and four other commissioners, saying they rarely conducted hearings and yet found the time for junkets abroad.
In remarks at Malacañang, Duterte blasted the commission’s top officials, particularly
Ridon, a former student activist, who he said “had too much, too soon.”
The four other commissioners were Melissa Aradanas, Joan Lagunda, Manuel Serra Jr. and Noe Indonto.
“Today I fired the whole of the Commission of the Urban Poor. One is because it’s a collegial body and I have heard that they never had had any hearing except for one or two,” Duterte said.
“He (Ridon) was appointed September and he traveled about seven times. And to think that the office is an urban poor agency. I cannot understand why you have to be there at every powwow in the international scene. We cannot afford it,” he added.
The President clarified that his decision to fire Ridon, who was a representative for the left-leaning Kabataan party-list in the previous Congress, was nothing personal.
Ridon supposedly traveled with officials from other agencies, including the National Housing Authority and the Office of the Cabinet Secretary. The trips were for international conferences related to poverty alleviation and development.
Trips approved by Palace
In a statement, Ridon said the trips were approved by Malacañang.
“All trips were covered by travel authorities issued by the Office of the President and recommended by the Office of the Cabinet Secretary involving international conferences relevant to the urban poor: poverty alleviation, public housing and climate change,” Ridon said.
In a radio interview, Ridon admitted he was surprised at Duterte’s decision but said he served at the pleasure of the President.
Ridon thanked Duterte for the “opportunity to serve the nation,” adding that the commission had performed its mandate “with integrity and confidence” despite the “heavy burden of undertaking genuine reform.”
“The public record of the agency can speak for itself: we had implemented with full integrity the presidential promise of no demolition without relocation,” Ridon said in a text message.
In a news conference, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said Duterte fired Ridon and all four other commissioners for being “notorious for junkets abroad.”
“So this kind of work performance has no place in the Duterte administration. We reiterate, we are serious about the drive against corruption in government,” he said.
Roque initially said Duterte was abolishing the entire commission but soon issued a correction.
He said the filing of charges against the commissioners would be “logical conclusion.”
Under Executive Order 82 dated December 8, 1986, the commission serves as the direct link of the urban poor to the government in policy formulation and program implementation.
Former president Benigno Aquino 3rd transferred the commission under the supervision of the Office of the President in March 2012.
In August 2016, Duterte appointed Ridon, a graduate of the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University, to head the agency.
The President’s decision to fire Ridon and the other commissioners came after the collapse of peace talks with communist rebels and Duterte’s move to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing as terrorist organizations.Roque said the Duterte’s decision had nothing to do with Ridon’s affiliations with the Left.
“Even if Terry Ridon is left-leaning, I know that he is separate from leftist groups because he was no longer taken as Kabataan party-list’s nominee for a second time,” he said.