^

Headlines

Duterte continues tirades vs Gordon

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Duterte continues tirades vs Gordon
Duterte claimed that Gordon, who leads the Senate probe on the government’s COVID-19 supply contracts, is just pretending to be a graft buster but is really a “farce” who is after political mileage.
Presidential Communications Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines — The word war between President Duterte and Sen. Richard Gordon rages on, with the Chief Executive bringing up a litany of violations that the senator had supposedly committed and describing the Senate hearing on the allegedly overpriced pandemic supply deals as a “witch-hunt.”

Duterte claimed that Gordon, who leads the Senate probe on the government’s COVID-19 supply contracts, is just pretending to be a graft buster but is really a “farce” who is after political mileage.

“Some say they (are) the honorable (workers), some say that they are the much-abused phrase, public servant. You (Gordon) are not really serving the people... If you are lazy, then that is the fault of the people for electing you. If you are corrupt, that’s the fault of the people,” Duterte said in his pre-recorded public address last Monday.

“Is the ongoing inquiry truly in aid of legislation or is it for political purposes? The simple fact is that the Blue Ribbon committee has failed to produce anything to prove its accusation of corruption,” he added.

Duterte then enumerated the alleged wrongdoings of Gordon, the only topic discussed during the first 45 minutes of his nearly two-hour address.

He brought up Gordon’s priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or congressional allocations and asked him whether he “co-mingled” it with the funds of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to prevent it from being audited. Gordon is the chairman of the PRC.

“You know, I need to have the Red Cross investigated for a host of reasons. The first is money. As I said, I want to know whether you are giving your PDAF to the Red Cross, you indicate it so that when the funds are commingled, there can never be an audit in your theory because the COA (Commission on Audit) cannot audit the Red Cross,” Duterte said.

“I disagree with you as a lawyer and I am pointing out to you the Constitution and the republic act, and I dare say that you are wrong. This is the same law that requires the PRC to submit to the Office of the President of the Philippines its annual financial report,” he added.

The Philippine Red Cross Act of 2009 requires the group to submit to the president an annual report containing its activities and showing its financial condition at the end of every calendar year.

Duterte said Gordon may have “co-mingled” P88 million in PDAF with PRC money, an information that he claimed was relayed by people connected with the PRC.

“I want to know, did you receive... was it P88 million? In your PDAF? If this is true, you parked your PDAF there... so you co-mingled it with the money of...the Red Cross... Now, the money is lost forever. It cannot be accounted for if you really parked the funds there,” the President said.

“If it is not true, forgive me. But if it is true, you must answer it because I am really going to insist that COA conduct an audit of the Red Cross,” he added.

COA has said it has no jurisdiction over the PRC, a non-government humanitarian organization. But Malacañang has insisted that the PRC can be audited by state auditors because it is receiving government support.

Annual reports

Duterte also claimed that Gordon has not complied with the law requiring the PRC to provide the president copies of its annual reports.

“So I ask again, where is this report? In all my years as President, I have not seen even the shadow of that law-mandated report. That is actually an omission. That is something which you failed to do. And don’t tell me you don’t have a responsibility there,” Duterte said.

”If it is required by law and you failed to do it and there’s malice because you wanted to hide your crimes, how did you spend, how did you siphon the money of the Red Cross, then it becomes a case of anti-graft,” he added.

Duterte clarified that he is not attacking the PRC, which has been helping the government in its COVID-19 testing efforts.

“We would just like to know if the resources that the government has given to it is well managed. We are only asking for the same transparency from PRC, chairman Dick,” the President said.

“You want transparency in transactions? That’s why you are dwelling on Pharmally? Or in the same manner we would like also to see if there is transparency in the Red Cross under you,” he added.

Duterte said he has instructed the solicitor general to write to COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo to conduct an audit on the PRC’s finances.

‘False’ test results

Duterte also questioned the quality of the PRC’s testing facilities, saying there have been instances of false COVID-19 positive cases from its laboratories.

The President said he has received information that 44 out of 49 hospital personnel who had tested positive in PRC laboratories turned out negative in another facility.

He added that 187 out of 213 members of the Presidential Security Group tested positive in a PRC Manila laboratory but tested negative in their confirmatory tests.

“Even officials of the Department of Finance have experienced the same Red Cross testing facilities, positive today, negative the following day and the day after,” Duterte said.

According to him, the agency had 13 cases of false positive PCR test results for COVID-19.

“How about the people who just accepted your PCR tests and who tested positive when all along they are negative but because they have no money...they just (accepted the result) and had to endure a confinement of two weeks?” Duterte said.

“Because of this information, then maybe the DOH (Department of Health) must investigate this matter. You could be putting more people at risk. You could be falsely adding to the total positive cases per day of this country,” he added.

Asked during a press briefing yesterday whether the government would also check the quality of the tests conducted by other laboratories, presidential spokesman Harry Roque replied: “II think that is the offshoot of the President’s order, that the RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine)...must really go out of its way and test the accuracy, even at a random basis, of the machines we are using.”

Duterte also brought up the supposed disallowances in the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA)’s book of accounts while Gordon was sitting as its chairman.

“There was an audit and P86,815,433.24 is attributed to you, according to COA. And in early August of this year, SBMA sent a final demand for you to pay the said amount in 30 days. It has been more than 30 days, Mr. Gordon, and you have not done anything,” the President said.

“Let me remind you that when the notice of disallowance has been...issued, clearly a law has been violated. Maybe a case should be filed against you. I am now asking the concerned agencies to look into this matter,” he added.

‘Witch-hunt’

Duterte blasted the Senate hearings on the COVID-19 supply deals, saying they have not proven allegations of overpricing.

“Even Dick, the committee chairman, conceded that there is no overpricing, yet still he insists on pursuing this witch-hunt,” the President said.

Duterte urged the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to bring its case to the ombudsman or to the proper courts if it thinks it has gathered enough evidence of corruption or malfeasance from its inquiry.

He reiterated that the committee should treat all resource persons “with utmost respect by giving them adequate time to speak and by avoiding any premature judgment.”

Duterte also warned Gordon that someone would stand up to him if he continues acting like a “despot” during hearings.

H recalled his advice to military officials that they should not allow themselves to be yelled at during Senate inquiries. He vowed to “extract” them from the Senate if they are cited in contempt and detained.

Demonizing

Meanwhile, Rep. Michael Edgar Aglipay, chairman of the House committee on good government and public accountability, said the Senate appears preoccupied in the past 11 years with demonizing perceived administration presidential candidates.

“It’s like clockwork to topple the frontliner in the next elections,” Aglipay said in a statement.

“The Senate, particularly its Blue Ribbon committee, has always held highly publicized hearings six to eight months before the next presidential elections,” the congressman from Diwa party-list pointed out.

Like in 2010, it was former Senate President Manny Villar – the frontrunner in pre-election surveys during that time – who became the chamber’s punching bag and grilled for “alleged double insertion on the C-5 extension.”

The same thing happened in the run-up to the 2016 elections, when former vice president Jejomar Binay was subjected to intense Senate questioning over supposed ill-gotten wealth.

Both lost the elections.

“Now, they are doing this again with the alleged overpricing of equipment purchased from Pharmally,” Aglipay noted. “Let us not waste taxpayers’ money by holding more hearings. Let us not make use of these hearings to further political ambition,” he added.

Aglipay called on his fellow lawmakers “not to waste the Filipino people’s time” and “not distract Cabinet officials from the true task at hand, and that is to continue fighting the virus.” – Delon Porcalla

COVID-19 PRESIDENT DUTERTE
Philstar
  • Latest
  • Trending
Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
X
Login

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

FORGOT PASSWORD?
SIGN IN
or sign in with