Duterte says no infighting among Cabinet members
President Rodrigo Duterte denied on Monday that there was a brewing infighting among the members of his Cabinet.
"There is no infighting. There's no ruckus there. There's no trouble there," said Duterte in a press conference in Davao City before leaving for his state visits to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar.
Alleged infighting among some of Duterte's men came after the president fired Undersecretary Maia Chiara Halmen Valdez of the Office of the Cabinet Secretary over a rice importation issue.
His action prompted exchanges of accusations and statements between Valdez and Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol.
Valdez was appointed to the post by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, who delegated his authority to the former over rice importation.
Pinol, on the other hand, sided with National Food Authority Administrator Jason Aquino whose decision over rice importation was contrary to Evasco's decision.
Duterte reiterated he fired Valdez because he did not like people who are corrupt.
He said an appeal on rice importation should be decided by his office.
"The higher office is really the Office of the President, okay? It never reached my desk. I was not put on notice but I let the Cabinet decide if it's with their cluster," Duterte explained.
He said the Office of the Cabinet Secretary, through Valdez, overruled Aquino's decision by approving the rice importation by the private sector.
Duterte reiterated he did not want to import rice as the government expects bountiful harvest and he did not want local rice prices competing with imported rice.
In the same press conference, asked if new faces could be seen in his Cabinet soon, Duterte said he would not change the members of his official family, except those who would be rejected by the Commission on Appointments.
"If they are refused, you cannot reappoint them. The law does not allow it if you are rejected," he said.
Some of Duterte's Cabinet officials have been bypassed by the CA. One of them is Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.
There were reports some defeated candidates in the May elections last year could be appointed to the post after the one year ban lapses. Celerina Mote/DMS