MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday admitted that he asked Peter Laviña to resign from his post as the administrator of the National Irrigation Administration after the latter was accused of extortion.
The President made it clear that although he was hurt by the accusations since Laviña is his longtime friend, he could not condone something that goes against his campaign against corruption.
In a speech last February 24, Duterte hinted that he fired somebody from the government but did not mention any name.
"When I said, there will be no corruption, there will be no corruption. As a matter of fact, I fired last night, one taga-Davao na, for simply making a remark about a... and I told him even a whiff of corruption, talagang tatanggalin kita. I am doing my part," said Duterte.
Laviña, however, denied the allegations against him.
"There are rumors circulating that I have asked money from NIA contractors. These are not true! To spare the President from these embarrassing stories, particularly in these times of intensified attacks on him, I have quietly left government," he said in his Facebook page.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, meanwhile, noted Laviña's departure is "tainted with allegations of wrongdoing" which "runs against the very core of this Administration's values."
"Mr. Lavina may have his own take on this matter, as he is entitled to his opinion, but at the end of the day, public service must brook no hint of corruption, any intimation of which must be faced squarely and without favor," he added.
"Only then can we move forward, towards a well functioning government; towards a nation worthy of our people. And a people worthy of the nation," he added.
Laviña was a special assistant to Duterte when he was still Davao mayor before entering politics himself as councilor of Davao City.
He later served as spokesperson of Duterte's presidential campaign.
After he was appointed to NIA's top post last December, Laviña promised to push for free irrigation to boost the country's rice self-sufficiency, as well as tap hydro-power resources to provide electricity to far-flung villages.
In a Facebook post Thursday, Laviña urged the public to "help the President, bite the bullet for him or be a sacrificial lamb, if need be."
"Let's move on! Those with crab mentality will be left behind for back-stabbings, back-bitings, finger-pointings, rumor-mongering, etc. Nation-building is a tall task in which each one should share for the common good," he added.
Laviña said he marked his return to the private sector by helping conceptualize a sports facility project in Central Luzon, and the development of land estates in Zambales, Bataan, and Palawan.