Sueno: Thank you, Mr President, but 'I am not corrupt'

MANILA, Philippines – Dismissed secretary Ismael “Mike” Sueno  of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has accepted "wholeheartedly" the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to remove him from the Cabinet, but firmly denied the allegations of corruption made by his undersecretaries. 

In a statement late Tuesday afternoon, April 4, Sueno also said he could only wish his detractors – referring to undersecretaries and fellow Duterte campaigners John Castriciones, Jesus Hinlo, and Emily Padilla – could only "do better" in the DILG, where he “did my best and gave my heart.”

In a statement before the Cabinet meeting Monday night, where he was unceremoniously fired by the President, Sueno had alleged that the 3 undersecretaries who spoke to Duterte had been interested in the DILG's top post from the beginning. (INSIDE STORY: How Duterte fired DILG chief Sueno)

Sueno said he is ready to face any investigation, but wished the President had the information passed on to him validated first. 

"I wholeheartedly accept the decision of the President. It is his call if he wants me in his Cabinet or not. But, for the record, Mr President – and I can say this with all honesty and sincerity – hindi po ako corrupt (I am not corrupt)," said Sueno.

Accusing his detractors of giving Duterte false information, he added: "I just wished the information was validated. If only the President asked DILG personnel from the central down to the regional and field offices, he would have known who amongst us are more credible and trustworthy." 

The sacked DILG chief is accused of acquiring a hotel in South Cotabato and trucks for a family business, which were all beyond his means. He is also alleged to have facilitated the purchase and delivery of trucks from Austria that were more expensive than from other sources, and to have accepted bribes from gambling lords. 

Sueno had said the hotel belongs to his brother, and the trucks to his daughter. In his Tuesday statement, he said he had refused the bribe offers of gambling lords, and defended the Austrian deal as "a perfected contract entered into by the previous administration."

Firetrucks contract under Aquino admin?

"My role was to abide by the provision of the contract, which says that I should ensure that the firetrucks to be delivered are in good condition so my team and I had to go to Austria to inspect them. If we did not do that, we cannot anymore complain if they delivered defective firetrucks to us," Sueno said.

He also said that being under a 23-year soft loan agreement with minimal interest rates, the Austrian firetrucks would actually be "much cheaper" than locally-made firetrucks: "The Austrian firetrucks are new ones compared to the locally-made ones which are cheaper but are reconditioned and which are good only for a few years."

The contract is the subject of a pending petition before the Supreme Court, but Sueno justified implementing it, saying there is "no temporary restraining order, any injunctive relief or even a status quo ante order" either. 

“My conscience is clear. Inuulit ko po, wala akong ginawa o ginagawang anomalya (I repeat, I did not nor am I engaged in any anomaly),” he said, reiterating he is grateful for the chance to serve at the DILG. 

As for his detractors, he had this part-wish-part-warning: "What goes around comes around. I hope that they will do better than I did in the DILG. I may be old, I may not be as articulate as my 3 lawyer-undersecretaries, but if there is one thing that I am sure of is I am not corrupt." – Miriam Grace Go/Rappler.com