Sueno's 'wrong' answer to Duterte sealed his fate

MANILA, Philippines – Government officials should take extra caution when answering President Rodrigo Duterte's questions.

Apparently, it was former Interior Secretary Ismael "Mike" Sueno's one "wrong" answer to one of his questions that ultimately convinced the Chief Executive to fire Sueno during a full Cabinet meeting. (READ: INSIDE STORY: How Duterte fired DILG chief Sueno)

The President asked Sueno at the start of the April 3 meeting if he had read the opinion of his department's legal division about a suspicious government contract.

"When he said he was not informed of the legal opinion of his own office, I lost my [head]," recalled Duterte on Tuesday, April 4, during an event in Makati.

"If you answer me with that kind of statement, that you never read the legal opinion of the legal officers of your own office, it's either you're taking me for a stupid and idiot or you are lying [through] your teeth," he added.

At the start of the meeting, Duterte said he initially did not plan on firing Sueno in that manner. He wanted to "avoid an embarrassing situation."

But Sueno's answer so angered him that, by the end of the meeting, Duterte found himself saying, "You're fired. I am dismissing you."

"I fired a Cabinet member, in a full Cabinet meeting, because I did not like his answer, because it was really a plain lie. Para siya nakausap na, ginagawa niya akong gago (It's like he was telling me, he was making me look like a fool)," said Duterte.

The President wants his dismissal of Sueno to serve as proof of his "one whiff, you're out" policy, the manifestation of his supposed hardline stance against corruption.

Barely a year in power, Duterte has sacked 3 other high-ranking officials: former National Irrigation Administration chief Peter Laviña, and former Bureau of Immigration deputy commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles.

He also said he fired 92 Land Transportation Office and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board personnel. –


Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at