The resignation of Dionisio Santiago as chairperson of the Dangerous Drugs Board upon orders of President Duterte should serve as a lesson to the cabinet members. The President confirmed he ordered Santiago to resign as he was offended by Santiago’s comment to media that the mega drug rehabilitation center in Nueva Ecija was “impractical” and a “mistake” because a 10,000 bed capacity is too big. Santiago told media that the funds used in the construction of the huge facility could have been spent for community-based rehab centers with 150-200 bed capacity. For the President, Santiago should have raised his statements personally to him and not to the media. The President interpreted Santiago’s comment as sort of saying (the rehab center) “is a waste of money.” The President said he placed Santiago at the DDB not to issue statements but to advise him if he fails to do something. He said Santiago should have consulted him on his negative observations of the rehab center.
The President has a point, and in fact did right in sacking Santiago. Aside from it’s unethical, it was a show of disrespect to the highest executive of the land. As a ranking official in government, he could have been professional by not blabbering to media regarding his observations and insights. Not all decisions of the President are right and perfect. That’s why a President of the country has cabinet members who are paid to help in governing the country. Among the crucial duties of a cabinet member is to oversee the President’s decisions and policies and consult him or render advices on matters which he or she thinks are not appropriate. This is an utterly tough role because not all Presidents might not welcome advices; it’s rather a case to case basis.
Nonetheless, what happened to Santiago would also serve as a warning to the cabinet members to avoid too much talking to the media and should remember how sensitive their positions are. They should not be tactless about their observations, feelings or insights about the President’s policies as there are proper venues and time to raise such observations especially on disapproving ones. It doesn’t also mean that as Cabinet members they must be the President’s puppets. They should have the moral fiber to speak their minds even if these are critical of the President, however, straight to the President and not through any channels especially the media. Lesson: Cabinet members should do their functions always with caution and finesse.