VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Bong Go repeats questionable claim about Duterte’s fight against corruption

Neophyte Sen. Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go continues to proclaim President Rodrigo Duterte’s total commitment to rid the government of corruption but always sidesteps the inconsistencies in the administration's supposed all-out campaign against graft and corruption.

STATEMENT

In a July 4 press release, Go, the former special assistant to the president, said Duterte “spares no one” in the fight against corruption. Speaking at the oathtaking of newly-elected officials in Lanao del Sur, he said:

Halos linggo-linggo may sinisipa siya, kahit na mga tumulong sa kanya noong kampanya (He fires (officials) almost every week, even those who helped him in his campaign).”

Source: Kuya Bong Go, Bong Go seeks to solve housing woes in Marawi, asks Lanao del Sur officials to fight corruption, July 4, 2019

Go has repeated this narrative several times before. In February, he said the Duterte administration "does not tolerate corrupt government officials." A month later, he said the president will "part ways" with corrupt officials, even those who helped him with his campaign.

FACT

While the president has indeed “parted ways” with several officials, including his appointees, following corruption allegations, Go failed to mention that a number of them were reappointed and/or merely reassigned to other government posts.

Among Duterte’s most recent reappointees are two officials involved in two separate drug smuggling controversies in 2017 and 2018.

Retired military colonel Allen Capuyan has been reappointed four times by Duterte despite being linked in the smuggling of P6.4 billion worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu from China past the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in 2017. Capuyan resigned from his post as assistant general manager at the Manila International Airport Authority in March 2018, citing “future career moves,” amid the smuggling controversy, but was reappointed as Presidential Adviser on Indigenous Peoples’ Concerns only a month later. He was again reassigned as executive director of the National Secretariat of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in March 2019, and again as chair of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in June 2019.

Vener Baquiran, former Manila International Container Port (MICP) district collector, was also reappointed by Duterte despite being fired after P11 billion worth of shabu hidden in magnetic lifters slipped past the port in 2018. He was reassigned as BOC deputy commissioner in March 2019.

Baquiran was among the officials the Department of Justice recommended for preliminary investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman in April for dereliction of duty, grave misconduct, and failure to execute punishments to officials involved in the MICP drug smuggling incident.

Duterte's reappointment of axed or resigned officials due to alleged corruption was already pointed out in a fact check by University of the Philippines Journalism Department for Tsek.ph in April, and several other news reports.

Here is a list of officials previously reported to have resigned or were fired due to corruption allegations but were reappointed by Duterte:




Interestingly enough, a number of officials Duterte sacked have yet to face charges. For instance, Ismael Sueno, Duterte’s former Interior Secretary, whom the president himself fired in April 2017 for alleged corruption, has not been officially charged. Sueno denied the accusations.

Interior and Local Government Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya, in an interview with VERA Files on July 10, explained why Duterte is not pursuing charges:

Ang style niya is iyong pagtanggal sa iyo sa puwesto unceremoniously at nalaman ng lahat na you were fired for corruption is already enough punishment for you. (His style is to remove you from the office unceremoniously, and for everyone to know you were fired for corruption is already enough punishment for you).”

Malaya, however, clarified that Duterte’s “style” does not prevent other offices, such as the Office of the Ombudsman, to file charges against erring officials.

VERA Files has asked the Ombudsman for a list of officials facing charges in court after being dismissed by Duterte due to alleged corruption. The office has yet to respond.

Duterte, in his 2017 State of the Nation Address, stated that he will not tolerate even just a “whiff” of corruption:

“A year ago, I also warned government officials and employees that I will never tolerate corruption in my administration, not even a whiff of it. Let the dismissal of several high-ranking officials -- whom I myself appointed -- serve as a warning to all that I will never back down on my commitment to cleanse this government...”

Source: RTVMalacañang, 2017 State of the Nation Address, July 24, 2017, watch from 1:55:11 to 1:55:38

#

Sources

Kuya Bong Go, Bong Go seeks to solve housing woes in Marawi, asks Lanao del Sur officials to fight corruption, July 4, 2019

Kuya Bong Go, Report Corrupt Officials to the Truth and Justice Coalition, Feb. 8, 2019

Kuya Bong Go, Bong Go Vowed to Continue PRRD's Campaign against Illegal Drugs, Crime, and Corruption, March 6, 2019

RTVM, 2017 State of the Nation Address, July 24, 2017

Jonathan Malaya, Personal Interview, July 10, 2019

Allen Capuyan

Vener Baquiran

Melissa Avancena Aradanas, Joan Lagunda, and Manuel Serra Jr.

Jose Gabriel “Pompee” La Viña

Nicanor Faeldon

Milo Maestrecampo and Gerardo Gambala

Ismael Sueno

List of Duterte’s appointees


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

FOR FURTHER READING

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Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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