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MANILA (UPDATE) – Former Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) chief Dionisio Santiago was sacked not only because of his comments against a mega drug rehabilitation project in the country, but also due to complaints over his ‘junkets’ and alleged receiving of a gift from a suspected narco-politician, Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Santiago, who was fired by President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this month, had been the subject of a complaint over his foreign trips, one in Vienna, Austria and another in the United States, during his stint as DDB chief.
Santiago has denied the accusations.
“May maayos na travel authority yan. Pinili rin yung mga isasama,” he told ABS-CBN News.
Santiago added that he learned of the allegations from his wife. “Tinawagan ako ng wife ko, nagulat ako. I have to defend my honor.”
Roque said Santiago, based on a complaint filed last October 25 by the DDB’s employees’ union, brought his family to a trip, select DDB employees and “girl Friday” Edith Julie Mendoza to Vienna, Austria to attend “an ordinary Narcotic Drug Intercessional meeting at the government’s expense.”
Santiago was also accused of bringing a mistress and some of his favorite DDB personnel to a trip to the US sometime in September this year “purportedly on official business where their expenses have been charged against DDB funds.”
The US trip was supposedly for Santiago’s attendance to an event hosted by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
“For your information, for both meetings, attendance only requires the presence of the DDB chairman in the official invitation sent by the UN Secretariat and nothing more,” read the complaint signed by a certain Priscilla Herrera.
“This is an extravagant use of government resources and abuse of authority.”
Roque said the complaint also accused Santiago of “accepting considerations from major drug players.” During his stint as Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief.
Santiago served as PDEA chief from 2006 to 2011.
Links to Parojinog
The presidential spokesperson said Santiago was specifically accused of receiving a house gift from the Parojinog family of Ozamiz, who are accused of coddling illegal drug personalities in their jurisdiction.
Several members of the Parojinog family, including patriarch Reynaldo Sr., were killed in a raid in their houses in July this year.
“Can he be an effective chairman of the DDB as he is being reportedly, protector of a drug syndicate? We doubt it Mr. President,” read the complaint.
The complaint also accused Santiago of tapping former DDB chair Benjamin Reyes as the agency’s acting chairman while he was on a “junket spree” even though Reyes was already fired by the President.
Roque said while the complaints against Santiago have yet to be resolved, these were “overtaken by events because the President himself said that he decided to fire General Santiago because of his statement that the mega drug facility is a mistake.”
While he does not resent Duterte despite his sacking, Santiago lashed out at Roque for “not validating” the information he divulged to the media.
He also claimed that Herrera said it was not her who signed the copy of the complaint passed by Roque to reporters.
On Saturday, Duterte hinted he would fire government officials who went on unsanctioned foreign trips using government money.
“For those guy who have been using money of the government, just easily going in and out of travel upon the invitation of maski sinong mga seminar-seminar and they are easy really just to, some of them without getting a permit and wasting the money of the people, I have to ask them to resign,” he said.
“If at all, kung gusto ko man, kakaunti lang and those important meeting. Not just iyong basta na lang na there’s a seminar about whatever—about farming, about corruption, about business, eh hindi natin pera iyan eh.” – with Kevin Manalo, ABS-CBN News