Secretary Jesus Dureza resigned Tuesday following President Rodrigo Duterte’s public termination of two senior officials of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) due to corruption.
The former secretary made public his letter to the President apologizing for his failure to curb corruption in the office he twice headed.
“I am sad because despite my efforts to be compliant with your strong advocacy against corruption, I failed,” Dureza wrote.
Duterte last Monday (November 26) announced he terminated OPAPP Undersecretary for Support Services Ronald Flores and Assistant Secretary Yeshton Donn Baccay of the agency’s Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program.
“I am very sad that I accepted the resignation of Secretary Dureza,” Duterte said Tuesday at the inauguration of the new airport in Panglao Island, Bohol.
Dureza also served as peace adviser to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
It is the second time in two successive terms the OPAPP was involved in allegations of corruption.
In 2015, the Commission on Audit (COA) red-flagged OPAPP, then headed by Teresita Deles, for overspending on vehicle rentals by 469 percent.
According to COA, the OPAPP in 2014 spent P45 million on vehicle rentals instead of the appropriated P7.97 million.
Government auditors revealed that OPAPP rented a total of 294 vehicles in 2014, in addition to the 56 vehicles already owned by the agency.
COA reported that the office used funds from other programs to pay for car rentals without prior approval from the Department of Budget and Management.
The terminations and resignation this week revealed that corruption is apparently continuing in the agency.
PAMANA is OPAPP’s complimentary program to its role in the government’s peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The program claims it is aimed at extending development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected communities through improved governance, poverty reduction and community empowerment in the hope of addressing issues of conflict.
Duterte and Dureza did not elaborate on the alleged corruption by Flores and Baccay.
“I take full responsibility and apologise for all this,” Dureza said, adding his voluntary resignation is also to make way for needed reorganization that Duterte may wish to undertake at OPAPP.
AFP chief to take over?
Earlier, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Carlito Galvez Jr. told reporters that he wishes to become a peace adviser when he retires in December.
Galvez told reporters last November 19 that he conveyed his desire to Dureza and that he “accepted my request.”
Galvez however said he wishes to focus on the government’s peace process with the MILF.
Dureza did not comment on Galvez’s announcement.
The President’s high school classmate remains in government as special envoy to the European countries.
The MILF and the NDFP have yet to comment on Dureza’s resignation. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)