MANILA – The Office of the Ombudsman has the obligation to investigate Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon for supposedly pocketing at least PHP86 million when he was still the chairperson of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), Malacañang said Wednesday.
This, after President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday threatened anew to ask the Ombudsman to step into the issue of Gordon who allegedly failed to return around PHP86 million in public funds when he was still the SBMA chair.
During the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte wants the Ombudsman to undertake its constitutional mandate to enforce the country’s anti-graft laws.
“It is the Ombudsman’s mandate under the Constitution to initiate investigations and to file information before the Sandiganbayan against the highest officials of the land,” Roque said.
Asked if Duterte’s latest pronouncement could be considered interference in Ombudsman’s affairs, Roque said: “I don’t think so because if you were to say that all appeals to the Ombudsman to do its job is interference, then all officials asking the Ombudsman to investigate will in fact be guilty of interference.”
Roque said Duterte is not ordering Ombudsman, adding that the Chief Executive merely wants to know whether Gordon commits a criminal offense.
“He (Duterte) is not ordering. He’s asking the Ombudsman to in fact perform its constitutional duty to implement and ensure compliance with our anti-graft laws,” he said. “When there is a disallowed [fund], that means there was misappropriation fund which constitutes a separate criminal offense other than the obligation to make reparation, return the money that should have been spent in the first place.”
Gordon was chairperson of SBMA from 1992 to 1998.
Duterte earlier said Gordon could be slapped with a malversation case for not returning the PHP86 million in disallowed expenses.
Duterte has launched a series of verbal tirades against Gordon, who currently chairs the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, for questioning the government’s purchase of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-2019) emergency supplies at the height of the pandemic in 2020.
Amid the word war between Duterte and Gordon, the former also repeatedly told the latter to just choose to be a senator or a chair of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), telling the lawmaker that having a “dual personality” is “banned or prohibited by law.”
Duterte posed the challenge as he also slammed Gordon’s supposed failure to spend the PRC’s money “in the right way.”
In September, Duterte also directed the Department of Health (DOH) to look into reports that the PRC is producing “false positive” results of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.
However, PRC on Tuesday released the findings of the DOH’s Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) which showed that the questioned RT-PCR tests were “valid and reliable.”
Sought for reaction, Roque said PRC’s statement was “half-baked,” as the data analyzed by RITM came from the humanitarian organization and “another laboratory that had a contrary conclusion.”
“Now, let’s just say that it’s not fair that the Red Cross released only one side of the finding of the RITM,” Roque said. “PRC wanted to vindicate itself and release the results of the study conducted by RITM.” (PNA)