(UPDATED) For the second time this week, President Rodrigo Duterte addressed the nation and lambasted Senator Richard Gordon, calling him a “despot” and a “corrupt official.”
“Idemanda mo ako ng (inciting to) sedition, idemanda din kita. Ako mismo ang maghuli sa ‘yo,” Duterte addressed Gordon during a meeting with some Cabinet members that was aired Thursday, September 16, 2021.
Gordon is the chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee, which is conducting an investigation into the deficiencies in the use of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response funds of the Department of Health (DOH).
At the same time, Duterte said he was happy that the House of Representatives committee on good government and public accountability has initiated an inquiry into the same issue because Cabinet members and other resource persons have “the chance to talk.”
“It was fair, the witnesses were heard and allowed to explain. There was no badgering and bullying. No one argued with the resource person,” Duterte said.
“Ang Lower House walang Gordon. Gordon is one of a kind, kaya sabi ko — Filipino people, kung nakikinig kayo — dump the guy, he's a fraud,” the President added.
Duterte has said that he would campaign against Gordon in the May 2022 elections.
In his latest address to the nation, the President urged Filipinos not to vote for the senator. Gordon earlier said he has yet to firm up his plans for the 2022 elections.
Meanwhile, Duterte said he will allow DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III and National Task Force against Covid-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. to continue to face the Senate committee in order for them to “complete their story.”
"Let us allow Gordon to show his stupidity. Pabalikin ko sila. Just tell them the plain truth," he said.
“But in the future, I will be the one who will decide,” he added.
Duterte earlier said he will require his Cabinet members to get his permission before attending Senate inquiries.
Played during Duterte’s briefing were the testimonies of COA chairman Michael Aguinaldo and former director of Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), now Deputy Ombudsman Warren Rex Liong during the House committee hearing on Wednesday, September 15.
The President maintained that the corruption “which the senators were desperately trying to establish” was false.
During the House committee hearing Aguinaldo clarified that tagging the procured medical supplies as “overpriced” did not come from COA.
He said their observations relate more to inventory management.
COA supervising auditor Rhodora Ugay said their audit report was limited to the transfer of funds from the DOH to the PS which amounted to P42 billion. These were the funds used for the purchase of medical supplies which include face masks, face shield and personal protective equipment (PPE).
"We will not be able to see any overpricing that's why we have no audit observation of overpricing procurement done by PS-DBM, we will not be seeing those documents, only transfer of funds," Ugay said.
Supervising auditor Theresa Ronquillo said they were still in the process of reviewing the contracts of medical supplies procurement.
These include the P8.68 billion contract awarded to Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corporation by the PS-DBM for the delivery of face masks, PPE and Covid-19 test kits.
Liong, for his part insisted there was no overpricing in the procured medical supplies and that the contracts were in accordance to the Government Procurement Reform Act and Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
He said what was important was that the items were delivered immediately and the public funds were secured as they were only paid upon the completion of the delivery.
Liong denied that there were high-ranking government officials who dipped their hands in the awarding of contracts to Pharmally.
He also distanced himself from former long-time aide of Duterte now Senator Christopher Go who was being linked to the issue.
Liong said he will voluntarily inhibit when the issue is brought to the Office of the Ombudsman. (Marites Villamor-Ilano / Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo)