Gordon: Duterte tirades distracting public from scandals

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
Gordon: Duterte tirades distracting public from scandals
Sen. Richard Gordon said he was wondering why President Rodrigo Duterte was making claims about his 2022 electoral campaign – supposedly using funds from the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) – when he has not made any announcement on future political plans.
Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Richard Gordon remained unfazed yesterday by President Duterte’s attacks, saying the latest tirades were another attempt to distract the people from corruption scandals rocking the administration.

Gordon said he was wondering why Duterte was making claims about his 2022 electoral campaign – supposedly using funds from the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) – when he has not made any announcement on future political plans.

“First of all, it is an honor to be attacked for doing my job and for doing my job both at the Senate and at the Red Cross,” Gordon told an online forum organized by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“You know I’ve not even announced anything yet. I may not even run for the Senate anymore. I may not run for president or vice president or even run for mayor. Why am I being tainted?” he said.

“This is really tragic. I think it is an attempt by the President to try and distract the people once again,” he added.

He said he agreed with Sen. Panfilo Lacson that Duterte was now in panic mode as the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, which he chairs, is getting more and more evidence of wrongdoing in the government’s handling of COVID-19 funds.

“I’ve been at the Red Cross and my mother was there for 63 years. I’m trying to break her record, I have nothing to be ashamed of,” Gordon said, adding he stands by the track record of PRC.

“So it is not about him or me. Am I flattered that he is paying attention to me? No, I should not be flattered, I can carry my own load,” he said.

Gordon said the President was quarrelling with the Senate to make the chamber “lose focus on things we must do so we can catch those who stole (money).”

“You (Duterte) said corruption is prohibited… So to my mind, I’m sorry Mr. President, I’m not here to please you, I’m here to protect the Filipino people,” Gordon said.

The Senate Blue Ribbon committee is investigating the reported mishandling by the Department of Health of some P67 billion in COVID-19 funds, including the transfer of P42 billion to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) without proper documentation.

The transferred funds were used to procure allegedly overpriced COVID-19 supplies from companies linked to Duterte or his top officials and friends, and with questionable track record.

In a statement, PRC board of governors voiced “staunch and unequivocal” support for Gordon.

The 20 PRC governors said Gordon is an “unsalaried volunteer like the rest of the Board, who has transformed the PRC into the responsive and modernized institution that it is today.”

“We stand solidly behind chairman Gordon as he leads the valiant efforts of the PRC to serve millions of suffering Filipino people, especially during this protracted pandemic,” their statement read.

No COA audit

Meanwhile, the Commission on Audit (COA) said it will not audit the PRC, citing lack of jurisdiction over the non-government humanitarian organization.

During budget hearing, COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo rejected the call of Duterte to conduct an audit of the PRC as he accused Gordon of using the humanitarian organization’s funds for his election campaign.

“We do not have jurisdiction to audit the organization, the Philippine National Red Cross,” Aguinaldo stressed upon questioning by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.

“The only thing we can audit are payments made by PhilHealth to the Red Cross but in that case, what we’re auditing actually is PhilHealth in making those payments… We’re auditing PhilHealth and not Red Cross,” he pointed out.

Under its mandate, the COA can only examine and audit government agencies and bodies.

COA circular No. 95-003, however, authorizes COA to audit NGOs upon request by proper authorities.

“You use it for the elections. This is your milking cow,” the President alleged in Filipino, addressing Gordon.

He then asked COA to audit the organization. Republic Act 10072, the Philippines Red Cross Charter, requires the annual submission of its financial statements to the President, who is also PRC’s honorary president.

Section 7-g of the law states that “the Philippine Red Cross shall, at the end of every calendar year, submit to the President of the Philippines an annual report containing its activities and showing its financial condition.”   –  Sheila Crisostomo

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