PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has dismissed two high-ranking police officials and the chairman of the Energy Regulatory Commission in a government shakeup that also saw 38 Customs officials sacked.
In a Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said Metro Manila police chief Joel Pagdilao and former Quezon City Police District chief Edgardo Tinio were “administratively liable for serious neglect of duty and serious irregularity in the performance of duty and have been duly dismissed.”
The President had earlier accused the two chief superintendents of being “narco-generals” that protected the illegal drug trade.
“Evidence shows that both generals deliberately refused, without cause, to perform their duties as police officers resulting in the proliferation of the drug trade in their areas of jurisdiction. Thus, the President’s decision,” Abella said, citing a decision signed by the Executive Secretary on Thursday.
Abella said, however, that he was unaware if criminal complaints would be filed against the two police generals.
In August 2016, the National Police Commission found probable cause to file administrative charges against Pagdilao and Tinio.
Also dismissed was ERC chairman Jose Vicente Salazar, who was found guilty of simple and grave misconduct in connection with allegations of corruption.
In a decision signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea issued on Oct.7 but made available Monday, Salazar was found “guilty of two counts of simple misconduct and one count of grave misconduct” after an investigation by the Office of the President.
The Office of the President found sufficient evidence to support allegations that Salazar influenced or exerted pressure on the bidding and awards committee members for the procurement of the audio visual presentation in favor of a bidder, and therefore found him guilty of “grave misconduct.”
The Office of the President said grave misconduct is a grave offense punishable by dismissal from service and carries cancellation of eligibility, perpetual disqualification from holding public office, bar from taking civil service examinations and forfeiture of retirement benefits.
It did not find sufficient evidence, on the other hand, on allegations of splitting of contracts for the renovation of the board room and the office of the chairman.
It also did not find sufficient evidence that Salazar influenced the bidding committee regarding procurement of consultants, shuttle buses, pest control services and software.
It also said that allegations that Salazar threatened ERC employees are unsubstantiated.
The Office of the President, however, found Salazar violated certain rules when he issued appointments without approval of the other ERC commissioners and thus was found guilty of simple misconduct.
The Office of the President issued a decision on Aug. 2 extending Salazar’s suspension for another four months due to insubordination.
In July, four commissioners of the ERC asked Malacañang to remove Salazar from office.
ERC commissioners Alfredo Non, Gloria Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana filed their 42-page reply to the administrative case against Salazar.
“His actions and utter disregard of the rule of law placed the ERC in chaos, its operations extremely jeopardized with the problems brought about by the irregular procurements and illegal appointments,” they said.
The commissioners questioned the position of Salazar that the ERC is an independent body and beyond the disciplinary powers of the President.
Corruption allegations have swirled around the ERC after one of its commissioners, Francisco Villa Jr. took his own life in November 2016 after allegedly being pressured to approve procurement contracts and hire consultants without proper bidding and procedures.
In May, the Palace appointed Non as officer-in-charge.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the dismissal of Salazar showed the administration is serious about putting the commission in order.
At the Bureau of Customs, Commissioner Isidro Lapeña relieved 38 officials and replaced them with his trusted people from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as part of his program to rid the agency of corrupt officials.
Lapeña said that relieved were eight district collectors and 30 section chiefs who continued to disregard his order to stop corruption in their respective ports.
The district collectors who were axed were: Elvira Cruz of Port of Cebu; Romeo Rosales of Port of San Fernando; Julius Premediles of Port of Limay; Jose Naig of Port of Iloilo; Carmelita Talusan of Port of Subic; Divina Garrido of Port of Legazpi; Halleck Valdez of Port of Zamboanga; and Tomas Alcid of Port of Appari.
The 30 section chiefs were all from the Formal Entry Divisions of the Port of Manila and Manila International Container Port and were reassigned to various provincial collection districts of the Bureau.
The respective assistant chiefs of the two ports were designated as acting chiefs following the revamp.
Lapeña has repeatedly asked BOC personnel to stop the practice of “tara” and to immediately do away with “benchmarking” or applying a discretionary value to shipments and instead apply the correct valuation of goods.
“I personally monitor the ports including their daily collection performance and it is apparent from the records that benchmarking is still being used in the assessment of duties and taxes. This has to stop immediately,” he said.
Lapeña recently said that he will be bringing his trusted people in PDEA to help him implement reforms in the agency.
Melvin Estoque from PDEA Regional Office VII is now the chief of the Account Management Office which is in charge of accrediting importers.
Director Jeoffrey Tacio from PDEA Regional Office was assigned as the officer in charge of the bureau’s Import Assessment Service. IAS monitors all import values of the goods taken into the country to prevent instances of undervaluation.
Also, PDEA Regional Office IV-B Director lawyer Jacquelyn L. de Guzman is the new officer in charge of the Administration Office.
“There will be more reshuffling if the BoC personnel will not cooperate in the reforms we are making. I told everyone there, I will work within the bureau. I will be one with them. But we must be all moving in one direction, and that is removing corruption at all levels,” Lapeña said.