Duterte to SolGen: Ask COA to recover ‘misused’ SBMA funds

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Duterte to SolGen: Ask COA to recover âmisusedâ SBMA funds
The photo of the Commission on Audit's office in Quezon City taken on Aug. 17, 2021.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has ordered the solicitor general to ask state auditors to collect P140 million in state funds supposedly misused when Sen. Richard Gordon was chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

Duterte said it has been years since the Commission on Audit (COA) issued a notice of disallowance over the SBMA funds but Gordon has not returned the money, P86 million of which was allegedly used for disallowed transactions that was “attributable” to the senator.

“What happened to your case? You did not pay. It’s malversed money. It’s the people’s money that you have used. So where is the money or... what happened to the money? Did you give it to someone or you gave it as a present or you used it for your campaign?” the President said during a pre-recorded public address last Monday.

“I am now asking the solicitor general to formally ask COA to act on the disallowance and remind them of their constitutional duty to collect the P140 million as stated in the demand letter of SBMA chairperson and administrator (Wilma) Eisma dated August of this year, which was sent via registered mail... This has been duly sustained by the Supreme Court as final and executory,” Duterte said.

“The verdict is final and executory na. So no appeal, no nothing except for you to pay. That is the civil side of it. Iyong binayarin – isauli mo ’yung pera, that is your civil liability,” he added.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, became the subject of Duterte’s successive tirades after the Senate launched a probe into the allegedly overpriced pandemic supply deals of the government.

The senator has vowed to continue conducting hearings on the supply deal and has accused Duterte of trying to divert attention away from the issue.

Earlier this month, Duterte directed Solicitor General Jose Calida to ask state auditors to audit the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), a humanitarian organization led by Gordon.

COA chairman Michael Aguinaldo said the state auditor has no jurisdiction over the PRC but Duterte maintained that the group’s finances may be audited because it receives government funds.

At the same public address, Duterte questioned the quality of PRC’s testing capacities after receiving reports that 44 out of 49 hospital workers were flagged positive in PRC labs but negative in another facility.

The President has also claimed that 187 out 213 Presidential Security Group personnel tested positive in a PRC Manila lab but tested negative in their confirmatory tests.

The finance department also had 13 cases of false positive PRC test results, Duterte added.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the results of the investigation conducted by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) are expected to be released next month.

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