Duterte threatens raps vs Gordon
President Duterte kept up his attack on Sen. Richard Gordon in his public address on Wednesday night, this time threatening to file malversation charges to recover some P86 million spent by the latter during his term as Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chair.
Duterte said the Commission on Audit (COA) had issued a notice of disallowance way back in November 2016 for a total of P140 million supposedly spent by the SBMA when Gordon was chair, with P80 million spent by his office.
“You know what this is? It’s malversation. The crime is malversation. It means you spent, pocketed the money,” the President said. “So kindly settle. If not, I will personally see to it that a case will be filed against you.”
Since last week, the Senate has been at the receiving end of the President’s tirades for its investigation of the government’s purchase of supplies to fight COVID-19.
Gordon, who chairs the blue ribbon committee, earned Duterte’s ire after the investigation exposed supposed irregularities into P11.5 billion worth of contracts awarded to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., an undercapitalized firm whose officers were linked to former presidential economic adviser and the President’s friend, Michael Yang.
Gordon turned emotional when replying to Duterte’s accusation of misusing Red Cross funds.
“As you know, I have spent 53 years with the Red Cross, and now I am being accused of stealing, or has been milking it for funds?” he said, adding that when he took over the agency, it did not have money.
“But now, and this might surprise you, it has plenty of funds because I know how to run an organization,” he said.
He stressed that the Senate would push forward with its investigation into the alleged misuse of P67.3 billion of the government’s pandemic funds until “there [are] still things that need to be uncovered.”
‘Breakdown of leadership’
Gordon also blamed the “breakdown of leadership” in the country for the problems besetting it on various fronts, but mainly in the battle against COVID-19.
“I will tell you this: If only you knew how to do your job, the Philippines would be better off by now,” he said, addressing the President.
“This [disagreement with President Duterte] is what it is all about: It is a breakdown of leadership. The breakdown of government. Responsibility to the people,” Gordon added.
“If we [in government] will not serve our people, who will defend them?” he said. Gordon was SBMA chair and administrator from 1992 to 1998. After backing out of running for the presidency in 1998, he was reappointed by President Fidel Ramos only to be ousted by Joseph Estrada who succeeded Ramos.
Duterte said Gordon should choose between being a lawmaker and the chair of the Philippine Red Cross, noting that neutrality was a guiding principle of the agency, which meant it must not take sides in hostilities or engage in political, racial, religious or ideological controversies.
According to the President, Gordon is a “double agent” because he signs deals for the Philippine Red Cross and then investigates issues related to the agency.
“To me, under the law, you must give [up] either Red Cross, if you want to be a senator, or you be a senator but you must not be Red Cross. For me, you find the two positions very lucrative,” he said.
Duterte, who often brings up the fact that he is a lawyer when discussing controversial legal issues, was apparently unaware that in 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that Gordon could chair the Philippine Red Cross while serving as a legislator. —WITH A REPORT FROM MELVIN GASCON
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