By Beting Laygo Dolor | Contributing Editor
Last week was not good for Malacañang when President Rodrigo Duterte threw barbs at an ally in the Senate while the Executive Secretary filed a lawsuit against a special ambassador-cum-media practitioner perceived as being close to the Chief Executive.
The President took issue with Sen. Richard Gordon, who questioned Duterte’s appointment of numerous retired military officers to various government posts. Gordon referred to the President’s actions as “dangerous.”
Duterte not only told Gordon to mind his own business but also referred to the senior lawmaker as looking like “a tadpole and a penguin.”
In a speech before firefighters in Gordon’s hometown of Olongapo, the President said anyone of them should punch Gordon, whom he also dubbed “the meddler.”
Gordon took the presidential insults in stride, saying “I am happy that the President is concerned about my waistline.”
The former Olongapo mayor added that he was likewise concerned about the 74-year-old President’s health.
The President defended his appointment of retired military men since they “follow my orders without question” but also because they were generally honest and efficient.
Critics say the President is stocking his Cabinet with ex-military men over concerns that the Armed Forces of the Philippines might mount a coup against his administration. Among those retired military officers are: Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Interior Sec. Eduardo Ano, Social Welfare Sec. Rolando Bautista, and Environment Sec. Roy Cimatu, among others.
Also in the President’s Cabinet are two former military rebels in newly appointed Information and Communications Technology Sec. Gregorio Honasan and Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Danilo Lim.
Meanwhile, Executive Sec. Salvador Medialdea confirmed that he had earlier filed a libel case against Ramon Tulfo with another case to be filed this week.
Tulfo serves as Special Envoy for Public Diplomacy to China and is the oldest brother of former Tourism Sec. Wanda Teo.
The first case was quietly filed weeks ago, according to Justice Sec. Menardo Guevarra. It stemmed from a Manila Times column written by Tulfo where he said that Medialdea was in cahoots with Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) board member Sandra Cam in diverting funds from small town lottery.
Tulfo had also written about Medialdea’s alleged role in delaying the release of reward money to an informant on a smuggling operation in Bataan dating back to 1997. Tulfo alleged that a presidential consultant linked to the Executive Secretary was asking for a cut before the reward was released.
Medialdea said he would leave it up to the President to decide what action, if any, he would take against Tulfo. He added that he would just let his lawyer file the cases due to the “backhanded accusations and malicious articles.”
For his part, Tulfo dismissed the lawsuit as “harassment” by the Executive Secretary, a low key but powerful post considered as akin to a “little president.”
Tulfo’s sister, Wanda was relieved as Tourism secretary after it was revealed that she had approved of a multi-million peso advertising contract to a company owned and managed by two of her older siblings. Ramon Tulfo has openly lambasted his younger brothers Erwin and Raffy for the forced removal of their sister from the Department of Tourism, then refusing to return the funds from the onerous ad contract to the government as they promised.
The PCSO’s lotto and small town lottery operations were suspended by President Duterte last week, only to be re-opened one day later. Malacañang said an investigation was on-going to determine the extent of corruption within the PCSO.