The year 2017 saw President Rodrigo Duterte firing government officials over what he claimed were the slightest “whiff of corruption.”
In several speeches, Duterte boasted that some of the officials he dismissed were close to him, such as former National Irrigation Authority Administration (NIA) chief Peter Tiu Laviña and former Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno. He repeatedly said he would not hesitate to fire a friend if corruption allegations against the person prove to be true or impossible to ignore.
And yet there are government officials who managed to weather the intrigues aimed at them. They are still comfortably in their posts, if not blessed with a new one.
Listed below are the top three officials whose staying power in the administration is proving to be strong.
1. Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade
There has been widespread clamor for Tugade’s resignation over his failure to solve transportation woes. More than a year in office, the Metro Rail Transit 3 suffers from glitches almost daily, the traffic in Manila remains worse and congestion at the airports still give travelers a headache.
Duterte, however, is adamant about letting his former classmate at the San Beda College of Law stay in his post.
Asked in November if he will heed calls to fire Tugade over the MRT-3’s frequent breakdowns, Duterte said: “I will not do that. I have full trust and confidence in Tugade that he can correct the mistakes there, if there are, and fix it.”
Duterte added that he will either resist the call for Tugade’s resignation or decline the request to appoint a new Transportation Secretary.
2. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II
Calls have been made for Aguirre’s resignation after he accused opposition Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Bam Aquino of planning the attack in Marawi City as part of a destabilization plot against the Duterte administration. The photo he showed of the purported meeting between Trillanes, Aquino and Mindanao officials turned out to be an old photo.
In September, Senator Risa Hontiveros dared Aguirre once again to resign after his supposed exchange of text messages with former congressman Jacinto Paras were made public.
Aguirre reportedly asked Paras through text to expedite the filing of criminal charges against Hontiveros.
The Justice Secretary’s critics say these incidents are just a few examples of his incompetence.
While Duterte has not issued a comment about calls for Aguirre’s resignation, the Justice Secretary said he serves at the pleasure of the President and will only step down if his boss asks him to.
Since Aguirre remains head of the Department of Justice, it’s safe to say Duterte doesn’t want him to go.
3. Nicanor Faeldon
Clamor for Bureau of Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon’s resignation grew louder after the agency was involved in the smuggling of P6.4-billion worth of shabu from China.
Faeldon and the BOC drew flak from politikos and pundits alike over the entry of shabu after it was discovered that the shipment containing the illegal substance was allowed to pass through the “green lane,” in the guise of havaing kitchenware.
On top of the smuggling controversy, Faeldon was accused by Senator Panfilo Lacson of corruption. Lacson said the former Marine officer received a P100-million “welcome gift” when he assumed his post in 2016.
Faeldon was also reportedly involved in rice smuggling.
Duterte stood by the embattled Customs chief despite the serious allegations against him, saying he trusts Faeldon and was convinced about his honesty.
The President eventually accepted Faeldon’s resignationn August, though he hinted he is open to giving the former rebel soldier another government post.
On December 22, Duterte appointed Faeldon as Deputy Administrator III of the Office of Civil Defense.