Philippines: Duterte Fires Second Official Over Foreign Trips

Dennis Jay Santos
Davao City, Philippines
180104-PH-travel-620.jpg Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his opening speech during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-U.S. Summit in Manila, Nov. 13, 2017.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte fired another official for taking too many foreign trips, marking the second time in as many months that he dropped a high-ranking member of his government, his spokesman said Thursday.

Maritime Industry Authority Administrator Marcial Quirico Amaro III was terminated after employees at the transportation department complained that he was “engaging in junkets abroad,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

Based on findings by the transportation ministry, Amaro made 24 foreign trips in 13 months after Duterte assumed office in 2016.

Of the trips, only three were sponsored by organizations that had invited Amaro. “The rest were paid for by the Philippine government,” Roque said in a statement.

“Let this be a reminder to all public officials that the president is serious in his mandate that they should lead modest lives, that they should be true to their calling, and that they should avoid unnecessary trips,” Roque said.

Roque said Duterte had specified strict guidelines on officials’ foreign trips. All travel must always be related to the functions of the agency, must not be too costly and must benefit the country, he said.

“All government employees need to get approval for any foreign travel, be it official or personal,” Roque said.

“This is the president’s unilateral decision to crackdown on foreign travels of government officials.  He believes that government officials should concentrate on their jobs here in the Philippines. … Any foreign travel must conform to the guidelines,” he added.

Amaro could not be reached for comment.

Other firings

Last month, Duterte fired Terry Ridon, the chairman of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor, on the same grounds. Ridon said the trips were official in nature and he had prior clearance.

Duterte also said he would dismiss “several police officials” soon.

Last year, the president fired 10 officials from their posts, including National Irrigation Administrator Peter Tiu Lavina and Interior Secretary Mike Sueno. Both were known to be close to Duterte and had helped him win the presidency.

None of those fired have been charged criminally, leading critics to claim that Duterte’s actions were due largely to infighting or politics.

In contrast, former Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon continues to have Duterte’s support and was recently named deputy chief of the civil defense office despite allegedly failing to prevent a shipment of methamphetamines into the country when he was customs chief.

Duterte’s son, Paolo, has been accused by an opposition senator of protecting drug syndicates involved in the shipment valued at U.S. $125 million (6.2 billion pesos).

Paolo Duterte has denied the allegation and his father has remained quiet on the issue despite his tough anti-drugs stance.

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