Duterte goes hard against misuse of funds
MANILA, Philippines — Saying public funds are not a blank check, President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to be personally accountable for all expenses related to the government’s response to the new coronavirus pandemic.
He said he would endorse charges of corruption against anyone who misuse the funds, while urging Congress to include “safety measures” to ensure that every peso was accounted for.
“Upon my oath of office, do not worry. All of the money spent for COVID-19 will be accounted for. I will hold myself responsible for this sole and solemn duty of answering for and in behalf of the executive department of all the funds that were spent in the fight against COVID-19,” the President said.
In a televised speech aired on Tuesday, Duterte said he would personally endorse and sign cases against those mishandling the pandemic response funds.
He also vowed to make sure that government officials who misuse the funds would go to prison.
He said funds for COVID-19 response cannot be treated as a “blank check,” as he assured that former military generals in charge of the pandemic response were honest and trustworthy.
The President made the remarks amid criticism over the government’s pandemic response, with Vice President Leni Robredo saying the provisions in the ratified Bayanihan to Recover as One Act won’t be enough.
Last Aug. 10, the Department of Budget and Management said the government had released P376.57 billion for COVID-19-related programs of various government agencies.
These were sourced from pooled savings from discontinued programs, activities and projects, special purpose funds, and the regular budget of agencies as provided for in the now-lapsed Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
On Tuesday, the President also promised to impose “stricter measures” on spending for the pandemic response, by requiring government agencies to account for their spending and urging Congress to include “safety measures” to ensure that public funds are audited thoroughly.
“I would require them to publish in the newspaper, in three newspapers of general circulation. I want to publish the procurement, the bidders’ names, their addresses,” he said.
Duterte continued: “In the Cabinet, another publication on their disbursement on how much they spent this month, or maybe every 15 days would be better.”
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