Ambulances went directly to state hospitals, say Arroyo, Nograles
MANILA, Philippines — The lawmaker-son of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and a former House Speaker confirmed on Monday that they obtained ambulances from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) but they insisted that they merely endorsed them to state hospitals in their respective districts.
“I merely endorsed requests from my constituents for ambulances to the PCSO. Any assistance from PCSO to Bicol Medical Center went straight to the BMC and did not pass through me or my office,’’ said Camarines Sur Representative Diosdado Macapagal Arroyo in a statement.
Former House Speaker Prospero Nograles said everything about the donation of two ambulances to his congressional district was legal. “Yes, it is true that the PCSO donated two ambulances to my district but it is not true that this was done because of my perceived closeness with the Arroyo administration. It is also false to claim that the PCSO ambulances were donated for my personal and political benefit. All were legal, not political,” said Nograles in a statement.
Rep. Dato Arroyo and Nograles were among 29 representatives who were given a total of 36 ambulances by the PCSO during the last half of the Arroyo administration.
Nograles said that he merely facilitated the request for ambulance donations and that the PCSO turned them over directly to the Davao Medical Center and the Emergency 911 project of Davao City.
Mr. Arroyo protested how the current PCSO management has been portraying the recipients of ambulances and endowment funds from the PCSO as “villains’’ noting that these were part of PCSO’s mandate.
“If the present officials of the PCSO can cite any law that was violated by the said donation they should instead bring their case to the proper forum and not through media. I urge PCSO general manager Ferdinand Rojas II to be more circumspect in dealing with the issue. I support any congressional investigation to separate fact from fiction to stop being demonized in media for doing our congressional duties,’’ said Mr. Arroyo, who was also one of eight lawmakers who got a total of P92.2 million in hospital endowment funds from the PCSO during the term of his mother (Arroyo got P500,000).
Nograles backed up Arroyo’s support for a congressional probe of the PCSO donations to lawmakers. “This can even be an opportunity for Congress really re-study the agency’s charter,” Nograles said.
Nograles said that the donations should not be generalized as part of “political patronage’’ considering that even critics of the government were among the recipients of endowment funds (P5 million for Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez) and ambulances (former Pampanga Governor Eduardo “ Among” Panlilio got five ambulances).
Nograles called insinuations that they got the endowments because of political alliances as “very irresponsible and reckless allegation. I wonder if the PCSO even studied the facts first before making this PR stunt because apparently they are unaware that Panlilio and Rodriguez were among the most vocal critics of then President Gloria Arroyo,” Nograles said.
“I got two ambulances although I was the House Speaker while Among Panlilio, a governor and an administration critic, got five. Where’s the favoritism in that?”
House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman issued a statement denying that he was among the lawmakers who received an ambulance from the PCSO. “Either somebody must have used my name or the PCSO has erroneous records. I challenge the PCSO management to produce any document which evidences my having received a PCSO ambulance,” said Lagman.
In a text message, Aurora Rep. Jose Edgardo Angara said that making lawmakers as recipients of PCSO funds was “acceptable’’ if money actually went to their indigent constituents.
But Angara said that PCSO funds should be granted equally to all lawmakers rather than capriciously by management. “It might be preferable if the distribution of PCSO’s money be done in a non-partisan manner both now and in the future, since charity shouldn’t really be a matter of partisan politics,’’ said Angara in a text message.
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