PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday fired a female undersecretary supposedly for appealing to Malacañang for rice importation permits, as he warned that more officials would be sacked because of corruption.
Speaking before the Grand Harvest Festival of Seh Leng Agritech in Talavera, Nueva Ecija, Duterte said he was so angry he decided to fire the official as his chopper was landing on the area.
“I was on my way here, I was landing, I said ‘Call Malacañang. She’s fired.’ So she’s the second one,” he said.
Without mentioning her name, Duterte said the female undersecretary was a “holdover” official, or an appointee of the previous administration.
The President said he decided to fire the undersecretary for seeking to overturn the decision of National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Jason Aquino to bar rice imports.
“I said, ‘How can I face the farmers? Why would we allow importation to compete with local products? Of course, it didn’t push through because I stopped it…We are an open market but you know, you have to protect the Filipino,” he said.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol confirmed that Duterte was referring to Undersecretary Maia Chiara Halmen Valdez of the Office of the Cabinet Secretary.
“It’s over the issue of rice importation. She had a conflict with NFA Administrator Jason Aquino,” Piñol said in a text message sent to reporters.
The President said he would also fire two more undersecretaries within the week, but did not elaborate.
By the end of this week, a total of five officials would have been fired, including former Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno and the female undersecretary.
In March, National Irrigation Administration chief Peter Laviña was dismissed for allegedly seeking money from contractors.
Duterte has dismissed 92 employees and officials of the Bureau of Customs, the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board because of irregularities.
“I will continue to fire people. The first whiff, even if untrue, you’re out,” Duterte said.