Duterte fires OPAPP execs for corruption; Dureza resigns, takes “full responsibility”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 November) — President Rodrigo Duterte announced Tuesday night that he had accepted the resignation of his high school classmate, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, after he fired an Undersecretary and a Director in Dureza’s office due to corruption.

“I truly am sad that OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process), as an institution which I head, had to suffer publicly due to the acts of a few. Nonetheless, I take full responsibility and apologize for all this,” Dureza said in an 11-paragraph resignation letter addressed to the President, the text of which he posted on his Facebook page at around 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Dureza’s resignation came two days before the start of the annual Mindanao Week of Peace.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza briefs reporters on the progress of the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines during the Mindanao Media Forum at the Park Inn in Davao City on 16 Nov 2018. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

It is not clear what time Dureza sent the letter dated November 27 and what time it was received by the President but Duterte in his speech Tuesday night at the inauguration of the Bohol-Panglao International Airport, said, he is “very sad that I accepted the resignation of Secretary Dureza. And I fired his USec, si Ronald Flores, OPAPP. That is the presidential office for the peace process and a director, I said, Yeshter Donn Baccay. And I’m still going to fire another one, baka (maybe) tomorrow.”

Flores isUndersecretary for Support Services and National Program Manager of thePayapa at MAsaganang Pamayanan or PAMANA, the is national government’s convergence program that extends development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected communities.

Baccay is Assistant Secretary for Support Services and PAMANA Concerns.

What the corruption charges are and how much is involved, the President did not say as he immediately declared, after announcing he would fire another one, “I’ll not talk about it anymore.”

“Tapos na tayo nag-usap diyan. Sinabi ko ganun, ganun talaga ang… Well, in fairness to Secretary Dureza wala man siyang ano — maybe because he’s the head of office. Pero itong dalawa, nagkalat itong — p****** i*** ‘to,” the President said.

Dureza opened his letter by saying he was glad “but with some amount of sadness” over Duterte’ announcement Monday night (November 26) at the National Peace and Order Council meeting that he was firing two OPAPP officials due to corruption.

“If you recall, I mentioned this problem to you at the sidelines of a cabinet meeting last Nov 6 and you told me that I should take this up with ES (Executive Secretary) Bingbong (nickname of Salvador Medialdea)  which I did. In the meantime, I tried to gather evidence to give basis to my planned move to terminate them if warranted,” Dureza said.

Dureza, who had earlier served as PAPP under the Arroyo administration, said he spoke with some local officials and “was able to validate some reports but they declined to be officially quoted, for obvious reasons.”

He did not specify what these “reports” are but added this was the reason why he sought the President during an event at the SMX Convention Center in this city “but the agreed appointment did not take place due to your heavy schedule.”

Dureza narrated how he tried to meet with the President on November 10  also in Davao City “but unfortunately while waiting at the agreed venue, I had to beg leave as I would miss my granddaughter’s birthday party that was being celebrated that day.”

“I am sad because despite my efforts to be compliant with your strong advocacy against corruption, I failed,” Dureza said.

He explained that he “left the internal functions” to other OPAPP officials “while I concentrated my attention on the big task of dealing with challenges of peace.”

Incoming president Rodrigo Duterte chats with returning Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza during a press conference at Hotel Elena in Davao City Saturday night, May 28, 2016. Mindanews photo by KEITH BACONGCO

“I even installed an internal Ombudsman with an outside lawyer to help validate and gather evidence due to persistent rumors about corruption. I even took efforts to publicly warn the public through the social and mainstream media against corruption in the implementation of PAMANA projects and requested information with assurances of confidentially of the source,” he said.

“I am voluntarily tendering my resignation to pave the way for the needed reorganization that Your Excellency may wish to undertake at OPAPP,” he said.

Dureza concluded his letter by thanking Duterte “for the rare privilege and opportunity of being the Presidential Peace Adviser under Your Excellency’s watch.”

Last month, Duterte named Dureza Special Envoy to the European Union.

His appointment was signed on October 23 but released only on October 25.

Dureza’s appointment is until December 31, 2018 and was supposed to have started, according to his appointment paper, on July 1.(Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)