'Nothing personal': Duterte says he fired Ridon over travels

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 12 2017 04:50 PM | Updated as of Dec 12 2017 05:33 PM

PCUP chair Terry Ridon. File Photo

MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday hit sacked Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) chair Terry Ridon over supposed unnecessary travels abroad.

“He was appointed September, [yet he has] traveled about 7 times,” Duterte said in a speech during the Conferment Ceremony of the 2016 Presidential Award for Child-Friendly Municipalities and Cities in Malacañang.

“To think the office is an urban poor agency. I simply cannot understand why you had to be there at every pow wow in the international scene.”

Earlier Tuesday, Malacañang announced that the President has fired Ridon and other high-ranking officials of the urban poor commission for two reasons: failing to hold a meeting as a collegial body and for going on unnecessary junkets.

Duterte said his decision to sack Ridon, who had ties with the Left, was not personal. His firing came amid the President's continuing tiff with the communist movement following the collapse of peace negotiations over persistent rebel attacks. 

Ridon, a former Kabataan party-list representative and for long a youth activist, was appointed PCUP chief late August 2016, when hopes were still high that peace would finally be achieved between the government and communist rebels. The peace negotiations have since collapsed.

Aside from Ridon, also sacked were Melissa Aradanas, Joan Lagunda, Manuel Serra Jr., and Noe Indonto.

In a statement, Ridon said all of his travels were legitimate and were even recommended by the Office of the Cabinet Secretary.

"All trips were covered by Travel Authorities issued by the Office of the President and recommended by the Office of the Cabinet Secretary involving international conferences relevant to the urban poor: poverty alleviation, public housing and climate change," the statement read.

"Further, these conferences involved a multi-agency delegation, including agencies under the Office of the President like PCUP."

Ridon earlier thanked Duterte for giving him the “opportunity to serve the nation,” even as he defended the track record of the commission.
 
“The public record of the agency can speak for itself: we had implemented with full integrity the presidential promise of no demolition without relocation,” Ridon said in a statement.
 
“We had represented government and given voice to the urban poor in international conferences on public housing, poverty alleviation and climate change, which was unprecedented in any administration. We performed our mandate to the best of our abilities, with integrity and competence, despite the heavy burden of undertaking genuine reform.”

With Ridon’s departure, the only personalities associated with the Left who are still in the Duterte administration are National Anti-Poverty Commissioner chair Liza Maza and Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod.

Ridon was not the first government official fired by the President over alleged junkets. In November, Duterte fired Dangerous Drugs Board chief Dionisio Santiago for allegedly taking junkets where he brought his family and favored personnel.