MANILA – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Thursday night assured the public that the PHP11.89 billion unobligated allotments of the Department of Health (DOH) will be eventually used for its programs and projects.
This, after the Senate blue ribbon committee, chaired by Senator Richard Gordon, conducted an inquiry into the deficiencies found by the Commission on Audit (COA) on the handling of the DOH’s over PHP67 billion funds for the country’s Covid-19 response.
“You know, eventually the money will be spent para sa mga programa ng (for the programs of the) Department of Health. So do not…kayong lahat (all of you), Senate, do not investigate programs which are ongoing. You will delay it, you will derail it by your incessant penchant for investigating government offices,” Duterte said in his prerecorded Talk to the People.
He said lawmakers are acting like they are “running the government” by questioning their unspent funds, saying they should wait until the department has finished implementing its programs and projects.
“I hope that someday we will have also a time to question your actuations and we will start with you. Hindi naman kayo lahat diyan malinis (You’re not all clean) but you are the one making a noise, a noise that is just really a noise for no purpose at all but to create a noise,” he said.
“Let us be open to everybody. You open your books and I open mine and you can read all what is entered there and I also examine what you have done so that it will be a fair scheme for everybody,” he added.
Personal political interest?
Duterte also questioned the objective of Gordon’s panel to look into the government’s Covid-19 pandemic spending.
“Gordon are you really [conducting an] investigation in aid of legislation or in aid of your personal political interest? I heard that you want to run for vice president next year and you are trying to impress the opposition that they would consider you? Totoo ba ito (Is this true) [Senator] Gordon?” he said.
He said if Gordon wanted to run for vice president, he would even be willing to discuss these plans with him since he too declared his intention to run for the country’s second-highest position in the 2022 national and local elections.
“Alam mo, tatakbo rin ako. Kung mag-usap lang tayo, puwede namang ikaw ang maging vice president kung karapat-dapat ka (You know, I’m going to run too. If we just talk, you can be vice president if you’re deserving). So I would know if you talk to me about your political plans lalo na ang (especially the) vice presidency. Ako naman nag-announce na (I have already announced my plan),” he added.
Duterte then brought up several issues concerning the senator’s position as chair of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).
“Ganito kasi ang problema ko kay Gordon (This is my problem with Gordon). Having a senator at the helm, especially like you, even if the Supreme Court ruled that it is not against the Constitution if you hold the position of Red Cross, I think is unethical and we have revealed why,” he said.
“Even before I entered politics, Gordon hinawakan mo na yang (you were in control of) Red Cross and you control the agency like the way you control everything. You are so bossy and I think that the true work of the Red Cross is not reflected in your actuations,” he added.
He recalled how Gordon threatened to make the PRC stop conducting free Covid-19 tests due to the failure of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to pay its PHP930 million debt.
“Red Cross is supposed to be a humanitarian organization. But when government was struggling to source funds, you threatened to stop testing. I really do not know but I cannot see the rationale of your statement na you threaten government with something which ought to be done by you regardless of whether or not may pera ba o wala (there’s money or not),” he said.
He also cited how PRC charged testing at “astronomical” rates of around PHP4,700 a piece without discounts for senior citizens and persons with disabilities and now plans to sell Covid-19 vaccines for PHP3,500 when a Moderna vaccine costs USD51 or merely PHP2,500.
“Is this a fair move of yours during the time of when the Philippines is suffering from, just like other nations, the effects of pandemic? Is the Red Cross saving money so that it would eventually pass a resolution to set aside the big amount to fund your elections plans just like the funds you use in the 2010 and 2013 campaigns?
Duterte said Gordon was clearly using the PRC as a “milking cow” to fund his upcoming election campaign.
“I dare say na ginamit mo talaga ito para sa elections. Ito yung milking cow mo e, sa totoo lang (I daresay you are using this for elections. This is your milking cow, to be honest). You have been there for quite a time. Is it not fair to say now na bumitaw ka na (you step down) and give others a chance para mahinto na yung ginagawa mong kalokohan (so that those anomalies would stop)?
He also brought up Gordon’s plunder complaint over anomalies in the PHP193 million worth of pork barrel allocated to the PRC as well irregularities during his stint as chairman of the Subic Base Metropolitan Authority. (PNA)