FIRING MENDOZA PAINED ERAP DEEPLY
Manila, Dec. 27, 1998 - President Estrada said it pained him deeply to fire Commissioner Pedro Mendoza Jr. of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), his close family friend and townmate in San Juan, Metro Manila.
But the President said he had to take swift action against the erring Mendoza to serve as a warning to all government officials, and underline his policy of "Walang kaibigan, walang kamag-anak, walang kumpare (no friend no relative, no buddy)" in his campaign against official corruption and abuse of authority.
Mr. Estrada sacked Mendoza for a string of complaints against him, the latest of which was his involvement in a Thursday morning gun-poking incident at the lobby of the Manila Hotel.
Hours after the incident, the Chief Executive called for a press conference to announce his decision to dismiss Mendoza.
"Masakit sa aking kalooban sapagkat hindi ibang tao sa akin iyan. Ang kanyang pamilya at ang aming pamilya ay malapit masyado (It really pained me to remove him because his family and my family are really very close to each other)," he said Saturday in his weekly radio-TV program.
The Chief Executive said Mendoza's mother is like a second mother to him, having been his political ally and financial backer from the time he first ran as San Juan mayor in 1969.
"Pero pag ganito na ang asal ng opisyales , kahit na kamag-anak ko, kahit na kumpare ko, kahit na sino man , tatanggalin ko (but if any official behaves this way, I will fire him even if he were my relative or buddy)," he said.
Mr. Estrada said he had heard many negative reports about Mendoza, the latest of which was the incident at the Manila Hotel two days ago.
Earlier media reports said Mendoza had traded barbs with senators who grilled him last week in a Senate hearing on his supposed ignorance of an existing law banning the importation and sale of real-looking toy guns.
Mendoza reportedly was overheard hurling expletives at the senators on his way out of the committee room.
The President immediately ordered the Western Police District (WPD) to investigate the reported incident at the Manila Hotel and promptly signed Mendoza's termination papers after the police confirmed the incident.
He said "aksiyon agad (swift action)" was necessary in Mendoza's case to serve as a stern warning to all his appointees that they "should set the example. Kung hindi nila kaya (if they cannot do so), I will set the example for them.
In a radio interview last Thursday, Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora confirmed that the President was really sad when he signed the papers sacking Mendoza just hours after the Manila Hotel incident.
"Talagang nasaktan siya (President Estrada was really hurt)," Zamora said. "But it was too open an act of misbehavior (on the part of Mendoza)."
Zamora said if he were to make list of the 10 persons in government closest to Mr. Estrada, Mendoza would surely be on that list.
He pointed out that Mendoza's mother was the only member of San Juan's elite who had openly campaigned for President Estrada when he ran for municipal mayor.
The President's tough decision should serve as a warning to one and all that Mr. Estrada would never tolerate any shenanigan, even if it is committed by a relative or close friend of his, Zamora said.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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