PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday “fired” all five commissioners of the Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor including its chairperson, Atty. Terry Ridon, over what he described were unnecessary trips and failing to meet as a collegial body.
“Today, I fired the whole of the [Presidential] Commission [for] the Urban Poor. One, because it’s a collegial body and I heard they never had any [hearing] except one or two,” Duterte said in his speech during the conferment of the 2016 Presidential Award for Child-Friendly Municipalities and Cities in the Philippines.
Quick like a thunderclap, Ridon maintained he and the other agency officials had served “with integrity and competence.”
“We performed our mandate to the best of our abilities, with integrity and competence, despite the heavy burden of undertaking genuine reform,” his official statement read.
But he still thanked Duterte for giving him and the four commissioners—Melissa Aradanas, Manuel Serra Jr., Noe Indonto and Joan Lagunda—the “opportunity to serve the nation.”
He said public record could show that they had implemented with full integrity the promise of the President of a no-demolition without relocation policy.
He added unlike the past leadership of the PCUP, they represented government [in the international conferences on public housing, poverty alleviation and climate change] and gave voice to the urban poor.
In his speech, Duterte alleged Ridon made several unauthorized junkets since he got appointed.
“He was appointed September—but he traveled seven times. And to think The office is an urban poor agency, I simply cannot understand. I simply cannot understand why you have to be there, every pow wow in the international scene,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Palace spokesman Harry Roque announced that the PCUP would be “abolished” but later backtracked and issued an erratum, clarifying that Duterte would only sack the agency’s five commissioners.
“With sincerest regrets I would like to correct the statement I made on the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor during this morning’s press briefing. It is to fire, and not to abolish, the Commission,” Roque said in a statement.
During the briefing, Roque cited two grounds behind Duterte’s decision to fire the commissioners.
“Number one, it is, according to him, a collegial body, and they have not met as a collegial body. Number two, the commissioners are notorious for junkets abroad,” he said.
“This kind of work performance has no place in the Duterte administration,” he added.
Duterte’s spokesman flatly denied the move had something to do with having a left-leaning commissioner, former Kabataan Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon as the head of the agency.
Last Dec. 8, Duterte said he would be firing an entire commission after hearing allegations of corruption against them, but did not specify the agency in question.
Duterte said he would not allow those officials to “bargain” for their posts.
In a statement, Ridon insisted his trips were approved by the Office of the President and other agencies.
“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,” he said in a statement.
“Further, these conferences involved a multi-agency delegation, including agencies under the Office of the President like PCUP,” he added.
Ridon added the agency’s officials had faithfully discharged its mandate and thanked Duterte “for the opportunity to serve the nation.”
Ridon said: “The public record of the agency can speak for itself: we had implemented with full integrity the presidential promise of no demolition without relocation,” he said in a text message.
“We had represented government and given voice to the urban poor in international conferences on public housing, poverty alleviation and climate change, which was unprecedented in any administration.”
PCUP was created by virtue of Executive Order 82 last Dec. 8, 1986.
It serves as the direct link between the government and the urban poor in the formulation of policy and programs to address the needs of the society’s indigent sector.
PCUP’s functions included evaluation of the government’s shelter-related or resettlement projects for squatters or informal settlers, as well as preparation of programs for the human development, basic services, and employment and livelihood of the urban poor.
With Rio Araja