MANILA – Amid the clarification of the Commission of Audit (COA) that there was no overpricing in the purchase of medical supplies related to coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic response, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee conducted its sixth inquiry on Friday on how government budget is being spent.
At one point, committee chair Senator Richard Gordon pointed out how they have been exhausted by the proceedings and said he is thinking of quitting politics when his six-year term ends next year.
He said he is not interested in running for other positions.
During the same hearing, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go said the smear campaign against President Rodrigo Duterte must stop.
“Huwag nyo na po kaming itulad sa iba. Pilit po dinudumihan ang kapwa para sila ang pumuti (Do not bunch us with the others who try to find faults to make themselves appear clean),” said Go, who was also prevented by Gordon from asking further questions addressed to Overall Deputy Ombudsman Warren Liong because his allowed time is up.
Go likewise asked COA Chair Michael Aguinaldo to post on its website the agency’s observations and findings after the Department of Health and Department of Budget and Management have filed documents needed to clear their procurement deals.
“Para, in fairness naman po sa mga ahensya na nagtatrabaho at gusto na pong makapagtrabaho. Kawawa naman po silang nahuhusgahan kaagad. Pero ‘pag may kasalanan, may pagkukulang, kasuhan n’yo na po kaagad. Ipasa n’yo na sa Ombudsman (To be fair to agencies that are working well. It’s a pity if they will be judged right away. If they did commit irregularities, charge them. Pass it on to the Ombudsman),” Go said.
Go echoed Duterte’s earlier pronouncement that instead of conducting staged proceedings, the Senate should file criminal cases against those it thinks are involved in the procurement controversy.
Red Cross audit
Duterte also directed Solicitor General Jose Calida to request the COA to audit the funds received from the government by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), which Gordon leads.
The PRC itself questioned Gordon in 2013 when baller bracelets bearing his name were distributed during a disaster relief drives.
About 500,000 rubber bracelets reportedly cost PHP8.5 million.
Gordon lost in the senatorial elections that year.
Meanwhile, lawyer Larry Gadon advised Gordon not to resort to dramatics.
“As a lawyer, he should know that to prove overpricing, there should be an evidence of price comparison at exactly that time when the purchase was made. The whole world was buying face masks and PPE (personal protective equipment) at that time and the supply was very scarce,” Gadon said in a statement sent to the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
Without proof of overpricing, Gadon said what Gordon is doing are mere “theatrical antics”.
Gadon said he bought face masks at PHP800 to PHP900 per box of 50 pieces, which he donated to various hospitals, last year.
“A face shield locally made by enterprising merchants at that time costs PHP160,” he added.
He said Gordon should be reminded of the economic theory of supply and demand.
“What may have possibly happened is that the PS – DBM (Procurement Service -Department of Budget and Management) favored some suppliers who can immediately deliver, but that does not necessarily result to overpricing,” Gadon said. (PNA)