by Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos
Former Dangerous Drugs Board Chairperson Dionisio Santiago was fired not just for contradicting President Duterte’s statements but also due to his alleged junkets abroad and connections to drug lords, Malacañang revealed yesterday.
In a Palace press briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who was allowed by Duterte to reveal the reasons why Santiago was fired, said a DDB Employees Union letter to the Chief Executive alleged that he went on trips to Vienna, Austria and the United States with his family, close DDB employees, and alleged mistress, a certain Edith Julie Mendoza, who was also his coffee server, last September.
“One of the complaints that reached the President was a trip to Austria, where in addition to bringing family members, Gen. Santiago brought six of his closest DDB personnel, including a girl Friday,” Roque said, quoting the letter.
“There was no mention of the date of his travels. And there was also a mention of a trip to the United States, indicating last month, meaning one month before October, where he, quote, ‘allegedly bringing with him his mistress and selected favorite DDB employees,'” Roque said.
Roque said Duterte’s sacking of Santiago shows that he will not tolerate junkets and unnecessary or unauthorized travels abroad. “That shows his resolve against graft and corruption. As far as he’s concerned, you don’t even have to be proven. If you’re tainted in any way by corruption, he will not hesitate to fire individuals,” he said.
“He has done so many times in the past and Gen. Santiago is only the latest of them,” Roque added.
Santiago reportedly attended an ordinary Narcotic Drug Intersessional meeting in Vienna while he went on an official business to the United States in which their expenses have been charged to DDB funds.
“For your information, for both meetings, attendance only requires the presence of the DDB Chairman in the official invitation sent by the United Nations Secretariat and nothing more. This is an extravagant use of government resources and abuse of authority,” the DDB union said in their letter.
The complainants also accused Santiago of accepting favors from suspected drug lords, particularly slain Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog.
The DDB union also claimed that Santiago allegedly received a house from Parojinog during the retired Armed Forces of the Philippines chief’s stint as Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency head.
“We believe our chairman, retired Gen. Santiago, is a liability to your administration. Previously, as aired on TV5 Aksyon sa Tanghali News by Mr. Gary de Leon last August 2017, reportedly said he was a recipient of a big Ozamiz mansion given by the Parojinog family during his stint as director of PDEA,” they said.
They added that Santiago had unexplained wealth, fleet of cars, and expensive property but did not say if these were obtained through his alleged ties to drug lords.
“Can he be an effective chairman of the DDB as he is being reportedly, a protector of a drug syndicate? We doubt it Mr. President,” they said.
The DDB Employees Union also accused Santiago of designating his predecessor Benjamin Reyes as acting DDB chairman while he Santiago was in his overseas trips. “Mr. President, what is more intriguing and appalling, which the DDB Union oppose, is his designation of Mr. Benjamin P. Reyes as acting chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board while he is on a junket spree,” they said, adding that Reyes was apparently still receiving his salaries and allowances from the DDB.
“Mr. Reyes, despite your order of dismissal, have been continuously performing his job and receiving his salaries and allowances at the DDB without a valid appointment to the present,” they said.
Santiago was appointed by Duterte last July after the Reyes contradicted the Chief Executive on the number of Filipinos addicted to drugs. Duterte said there were four million drug addicts while Reyes said there were only 1.8 million.
Santiago, the second DDB chief to leave the post under the Duterte administration, resigned on Nov. 6 upon the order of the Chief Executive after he told the media that the construction of the mega-drug rehabilitation facility in Nueva Ecija was a mistake.
Duterte said that Santiago could have asked for a meeting to tell his sentiments about the facility instead of the media.