Duterte chides dismissed FDA director general, calls agency a ‘gold mine’

By Genalyn Kabiling

President Duterte took a swipe at dismissed Food and Drug Administration (FDA) director general Nela Charade Puno for alleged corruption, saying he did not know the agency was considered a "gold mine” for the corrupt.

President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-LakasBayan (PDP-LABAN) meeting in Manila on May 11, 2019 ahead of the mid-term elections on May 13. (Photo by Noel CELIS / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN) President Rodrigo Duterte

The President mentioned the case of Puno while reiterating he does not tolerate corruption in government during a speech in Davao City Thursday night.

Duterte recently terminated the appointment of Puno after receiving complaints about alleged wrongdoing in the agency.

Puno is the wife of former Road Board executive director Rodolfo Puno.

“‘Pag sinabi ko na, ‘Adre, about time to go separate ways,’ corruption ‘yan. The latest ‘yung FDA. ‘Yung asawa ni Puno ," Duterte said in his remarks.

"Because he helped me. He offered to help sa ‘pag… Marunong ‘yang mga Puno. Sabi ko noong pagkatapos na, hindi ko alam na gold mine pala ‘yan sa mga corrupt ," he added.

Duterte noted that even the business community has welcomed the dismissal of Puno from the FDA.

"Biro mo pati ‘yung president ng Philippine Chamber of Commerce nagpasalamat. Kaya ako wala na ako. Noong nalaman ko, sabi ko diretso na. Hindi ako nagbibigay ng kuwan . When I learned about it, I said just leave. I did not give any (explanation)," he said.

Malacanang earlier announced the dismissal of Puno from the top FDA post amid the government’ campaign against graft and corruption.

The appointment of Puno was terminated effective immediately in a letter written by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to Puno last May 15.

The letter, released by the Palace to the public last May 16, noted that the termination was "in line with the President's continuing mandate to eradicate graft and corruption, and to ensure that public officials and employees conduct themselves in a manner worthy of public trust."

Puno said she respects the President but cried foul over unclear allegations of corruption hurled against her.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo recently announced that the government was looking into the possible filing of charges against Puno amid complaints received from doctors and other healthcare stakeholders.

He said the sworn statements of the “victims” alongside the Commission on Audit report on FDA will be forwarded to the Department of Justice for proper action.