Is Duterte 'recycling' fired officials? Only 3 out of 20, says Roque

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 7) — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday defended President Rodrigo Duterte's move to reappoint sacked government officials to different government agencies.

"Totoo na may ilang na-reappoint, sa aking bilang, tatlo lang po iyan sa mahigit na 20," Roque said in his regular media briefing.

The latest fired official to be reappointed to a different government office is Jose Gabriel "Pompee" La Viña. His appointment as Agriculture Undersecretary came out on Thursday. His appointment in the Social Security System was not renewed by Duterte in February, but two months later, he was appointed as an undersecretary in the Department of Tourism. His stint as undersecretary was short-lived after DOT Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat ordered all Tourism executives to submit their courtesy resignations.

"There was an investigation, he was removed (from SSS). But the President made the decision to reappoint, then so be it," Roque said.

Aside from La Viña, Roque said the other two officials who have been reappointed by Duterte are Nicanor Faeldon and Melissa Avanceña Aradanas.

Faeldon stepped down from office in August 2017 amid the controversy over the P6.4-billion drug haul from China that slipped past the authorities in May. He was also accused of accepting bribes. He was appointed Administrator III of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) under the Department of Defense in December 2017.

Meanwhile, Avanceña Aradanas was among the commissioners fired in the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) in December 2017 for what the Palace called "notorious junkets abroad," but she was appointed as Housing Deputy Secretary General in March 2018.

Not included in Roque's list is Manuel Serra Jr., who was one of the sacked PCUP Commissioners. He was appointed as a member of the governing board of the Philippine Coconut Authority on Thursday.

Senator Bam Aquino has called out Duterte for sending "mixed messages" by reappointing officials he has sacked due to corruption allegations.

"Stop recycling of corrupt officials... Kung seryoso tayo sa pagpapatupad ng mga hangarin laban sa korapsyon, hindi na ibabalik ang mga opisyal na nasangkot sa korupsyon at kakasuhan ang mga ito," Aquino said in a statement on May 7.

But Roque reiterated the President remains firm in his crackdown against corruption, even just a "whiff" of it.

"He has fired more than 20, all of whom are very close to him. We let the people be the judge. Malinaw na malinaw po ang kampanya ni Presidente laban sa katiwalian. Mahigit 20 na po ang nasisante, lahat po napakalapit sa kanya," he said.

The Presidential Spokesperson said the reappointed officials is a small number as compared to the number of erring government executives Duterte has sacked.

"It is not the rule, it is the exception of the rule... An appointment is an executive prerogative," Roque said.