Go hits ‘bullying’ in Senate probe; Gordon sees diversion attempt
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go said Senate inquiries should not lead to “bullying” to uncover anomalies, but Sen. Richard Gordon called out what he said were attempts to divert attention from the “overpriced” purchase of pandemic supplies his panel was currently probing.
Gordon chairs the Senate blue ribbon committee, which is currently looking into the Department of Health’s (DOH) handling of its pandemic budget earlier flagged by state auditors.
In its inquiry, the panel is zeroing in on the “overpriced” medical goods procured by the DOH through the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (DBM-PS) at the height of the pandemic.
In a privilege speech on Tuesday, Go decried attempts to link him to former DBM-PS head Lloyd Christopher Lao, whom senators had been grilling over the controversial procurement.
“If we already have a conclusion even before getting all the facts, then we have failed in providing the people true and accurate information. Aren’t we all for the truth? I am one with you here in the committee. I am with you, all my colleagues here, in finding out the truth,” Go said, speaking partly in Filipino.
“You know, we are together especially in this fight against corruption in government — I hope in the right way, not through bullying,” he added.
‘Judge, jury, and executioner’
Go also criticized the handling of the investigation. He claimed that resource persons were not given time to air their side.
“You know, you really get to thinking because of the hearing. Some are the ones asking the question. They are the ones investigating. They are also the ones answering. They are also the ones judging and making conclusions,” he said.
“I know this is not a judicial court, but it does not take a lawyer to figure out that you cannot be judge, jury, and executioner all at the same time,” he added.
“It seems like some already had an answer in their minds, and if they did not get what they want to hear, they will say the resource person is evasive… But let them finish answering, and if there are more questions, let him clarify. That, I believe, is the real essence of inquiring,” Go further said.
It was during the latter part of his speech that Go mentioned the blue ribbon committee chairman.
The rookie senator lamented that he was supposedly being treated like a mere resource person during hearings and not a fellow member of the upper chamber.
“Even in the hearings, right at the start, whenever we are near each other in a hearing, whatever the hearing, you treated me as a mere resource person that you can interrupt while speaking,” he said.
In response to Go’s lengthy speech, Gordon called out what he believed were attempts to “distract [from] the investigation” being conducted by his committee.
The veteran senator stressed the need to focus on the issue at hand.
“Let us just focus on the issue. Where did the billions of money go? That’s the question. If you feel like you’re in the hot seat, you feel that way because you can’t give an explanation,” Gordon said, speaking partly in Filipino.
“And when you keep locking us out, we will push back even harder because it seems that you’re trying to keep us away,” he added.
Gordon said Go’s rants were among the attempts to distract the public.
“You’re misleading us [he used the word ‘lansihin.’]. This is an attempt to mislead us — hitting the Senate, hitting me. Not even man enough to speak in the third person. When we speak here, we speak ‘gentleman from Zambales, the gentleman from Davao’,” Gordon said, speaking partly in Filipino.
The senator also mentioned the recent rants of President Rodrigo Duterte against senators and the blue ribbon committee’s probe, which was triggered by a Commission on Audit (COA) report flagging “deficiencies” in the DOH use of pandemic funds worth over P67 billion.
“COA provides the checks and balances. If he is hurt, then he should answer. Let’s not destroy the institution that is COA. Not content with that, he hit the Senate… So the leader has that attitude. It’s better that we just become a dictatorship because in a dictatorship nobody gets listened to,” he added.
Gordon also answered Go’s claim that he had been “mistreating” the neophyte senator. He said he had welcomed Go in different hearings he previously led.
“Don’t say that I’m mistreating [‘inaapi’] them. I’m not mistreating anyone, and I’m not treating you like a child [‘tino-totoy’], Gordon added.
“If our senators will say that I‘m treating them like a child, that’s not good. I don’t do that. I will not condescend,” he further said.
je / atm
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