Malacañang: Cabinet changes underway

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is set to make changes in his Cabinet to replace officials he is “unhappy” with, Malacañang said on Friday, March 16.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque  made the statement in an interview on GMA-7’s “Unang Hirit,” when asked if the President would sack any Cabinet official in the coming weeks. 

The question stemmed from Duterte’s earlier statement that  he would "replace" Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II if drug charges against alleged drug lords Peter Lim and Kerwin Espinosa would be dismissed, as recommended by a Department of Justice panel.

Roque said the President told several journalists in a recent interview in Malacañang that he would axe some Cabinet officials.

“Talaga pong nagsalita naman ang Pangulo doon sa Malacañang na merong 12 mga mamamahayag na nagkaroon ng pagkakataon na ma-interview siya. Talagang sabi niya na merong mga secretary na hindi siya happy sa performance at magkakaroon nga daw po ng mga pagbabago sa Gabinete,” he said.

(The President really told about a dozen journalists who had the chance to interview him in Malacañang. He really told them that he is not happy with the performance of some secretaries, and that there will be changes in the Cabinet.)

Roque did not say who these officials are.

As for Aguirre, Roque said the President “really got angry” over the DOJ panel’s recommendation to drop the charges against Lim and Espinosa, both of whom the Chief Executive had tagged as drug lords.

Asked whether Duterte was only joking when he gave the warning to Aguirre, Roque said: “Well, galit po ang Pangulo talaga ano. At ang sa akin naman, palagi kong sinasabi, kung hindi natin kukuning literal ang Pangulo, seryosohin natin ang salita ni Pangulo. So sabihin na natin na nagbibiro noong sinabi iyon, ang mensahe naman po, hindi katanggap-tanggap sa kanya na ang mga malalaking isda ay hindi po napaparusahan.”

(The President was really angry. In my case, I always say that if we don’t take the President literally but we take his words seriously. So let’s say that he was joking when he said that, but the message is it’s unacceptable on his part to let big fish go unpunished.)

On whether the President continues to have full trust in Aguirre, Roque said that if Duterte has lost trust in the justice chief, he would simply sack him and not wait for him to tender his resignation.

Duterte had earlier axed Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno and Information and Technology Secretary Rodolfo Salalima. He accused Sueno of corruption, and of Salalima of supposedly favoring a particular telecommunications company. They categorically denied the allegations.  – Rappler.com