By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has fired Department of Transportation (DoTr) Assistant Secretary Mark Kristopher G. Tolentino for allegedly having “dealings with a presidential sister,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. announced on Monday.
“The President has terminated the services of Assistant Secretary Mark Tolentino for having dealings with a presidential relative, a sister,” Mr. Roque said in a special announcement at the Palace following his press briefing.
The spokesman said this should serve as a “reminder of the President that no one in government should entertain any relative of the President that has to do with government.”
In a press statement, the DoTr said it “welcomes and strongly supports the decision of the President to terminate the services of Mr. Tolentino as Assistant Secretary for Railways due to questionable dealings and unfairly involving the first family with matters regarding the Mindanao Railway Project.”
“The DoTr, under the leadership of Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, does not and will not tolerate such acts by its officials or employees. Name-dropping and seeking the assistance of the President, his family, or any other influential individual, either for government projects or for personal gain, will never be tolerated,” the DoTr also said.
The transportation department also assured the public that the “Mindanao Railway, a priority project under the Build, Build, Build Infrastructure program of the Duterte administration, is on track and on schedule. Phase 1 (Tagum-Davao-Digos) will be completed in 2021, without delays and without corruption.”
In a press briefing last Friday, May 18, Mr. Tolentino said there is a “derailing in the Mindanao Railway Project caused by higher-ups in the DoTr.” For its part, the DoTr said Mr. Tolentino’s allegations were “false and malicious.”
The Spokesman also disclosed that the current partner of a presidential son’s ex-wife has been using the name of Mr. Duterte’s grandchild to influence some judges in the judiciary.
“Now, we are also warning the public, including judges and justices. Meron pong umiikot ito naman ay asawa naman ng ex-wife ng anak ng ating presidente. Ginagamit po ang pangalan ng apo ng ating presidente para sa pag-fi-fix ng mga kaso. Sa mga mahistrado po, mga judges and justices, huwag niyo po entertain-in itong mga fixer na ito. Hindi po talaga ‘yan kamag-anak ng President,” Mr. Roque said.
(There’s a [story] going around that a partner of the Presidential son’s ex-wife is using the name the President’s grandchild in fixing cases. To the magistrates, judges, and justices, do not entertain this fixer. He is not a relative of the President.)
Mr. Roque also said the President is “very pleased” with new Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat’s handling of alleged irregularities in her department.
“She was appointed with the express mandate to do good and to fight corruption and she is doing just that. The President is very pleased,” Mr. Roque said.
The new tourism chief has asked for the courtesy resignation of all DoT executives, including undersecretaries and assistant secretaries.
Mr. Roque, when sought for comment, said the Palace is “very supportive” of Ms. Puyat’s decision. — with Denise A. Valdez