Duterte fires NIA chief; Laviña denies involvement in corruption

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 01 March) — “This is your waterboy, signing off,” Peter Laviña, chief of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) posted on Facebook Wednesday morning, following reports he was fired for alleged corruption.

Laviña, however, denied he was involved in corruption.

“Paalam! (Goodbye!)  I have been vilified in the past; my name used, abused and maligned. Recently, there had been efforts to discredit me again. There are rumors circulating that I have asked money from NIA contractors. These are not true,” Laviña President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson during the election campaign and appointed NIA chief on November 15, wrote on his “Irrigator Peter: Your Water Boy” Facebook account which he opened on February 3.

NIA chief Peter Lavina with President Duterte and Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol (partly hidden, beside Duterte) at the launch of the solar-powered irrigation program in Pinol’s hometown in M’lang, North Cotabato on February 3, 2017. Photo from Lavina’s FB

“To spare the President from these embarrassing stories, particularly in these times of intensified attacks on him, I have quietly left government. I have neither personal vested interest in it nor ill intent towards NIA and the whole government, which we are trying to reform,” Laviña added.

He did not say when he “quietly left government” but based on Duterte’s statement, Laviña was fired on February 23.

Duterte announced Friday night (February 24)  at the launch of the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in Davao City that he fired somebody from Davao but did not name him. MindaNews asked sources close to Duterte who he was referring to but they kept mum.

In his speech at the BTC launch, Duterte again stressed his campaign to end corruption.

“When I said there will be no corruption, there will be no corruption. As a matter of fact, I fired last night one taga-Davao na… for simply making a remark about …  sabi ko he’s out and I told him ‘even a whiff of corruption, talagang tatanggalin kita’ (I will really fire you). Kasi I’m doing my… sa drugs, I am facing so many criticism and even threats of prosecution and… ” Duterte said.

“Sabi ko, basta gawain ko ang pinangako ko. (I said, I will fulfill my promise). If I go down or I go up, that would be my fortunes or my misfortune sa buhay. Pero I will comply with my promise no matter what,” Duterte added.

Rappler reported on Wednesday that Duterte mentioned his decision to fire Lavina his in a meeting with labor groups in Malacañang Monday night, February 27.

The Rappler report quoted sources who were in that meeting as saying that Duterte told them he fired Laviña for allegedly receiving “40%,” apparently referring to commissions from projects.

Laviña denied the allegations.

He expressed his thanks “for the opportunity to serve the government, especially to President Duterte, whose trust I have never betrayed.”

“I have proven in the past that one need not be in government to do public service or work for the common good. I will likely continue to do so in media, civil society and the business sector where I have been involved before. May the Lord continue to light our paths. God bless us all. This is your water boy, signing off!,” Laviña wrote.

MindaNews sought Laviña for clarification but he has not responded.

It was Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol who announced Laviña’s appointment as NIA chief on November 15 last year.

An ABS-CBN report quoted Piñol as saying “Laviña brings with him a public service record untainted by corruption.”

Before Laviña’s stint as campaign spokesperson, he was a three-term councilor and later special assistant to then Davao City mayor Duterte.

Laviña’s wife, Evelyn, was earlier appointed by Piñol as an Agriculture Undersecretary. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)