AFTER issues were raised by some senators regarding the qualifications of appointed officials in the Duterte administration, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go emphasized that it is the prerogative of President Rodrigo Duterte being the appointing authority as provided by law.
In a privilege speech on Tuesday, August 31, Go cited President Duterte who, during his Talk to the People address on Tuesday morning, said that he has the authority to appoint individuals he trusts in government positions.
“It is the President’s prerogative who to appoint in his office and in his administration. Kung gusto mong makialam sa appointments, maging Pangulo ka po,” said Go.
“Why question the appointing authority when his right to do so was given to him by the Constitution? If you have reservations on the qualifications of people in the government, question it before the proper courts. Or if you want to change the qualifications, pass a law to favor what you want,” he added.
While merit is important in appointing officials, Go said that trust is equally considered by the appointing authority. He went on to say that just because some appointees of the President are from Davao should not be an issue because he has the authority to install people he thinks are capable to lead these offices.
“Bakit issue na ngayon na puro taga-Davao ang naa-appoint? Ano pong masama doon kung sila ang pinagkakatiwalaan ng Pangulo? Ano tingin nyo sa Pangulo, hindi marunong kumilatis? Personal choice niya po ‘yan. Hindi porke’t abogado niya, eh tao ko na. Abogado niya po ‘yan noon pa,” said Go.
“Huwag kayong magmalinis. Sa mga opisina ninyo, wala ba kayong katrabaho na kamag-anak, ka-fraternity, ka-probinsya, o kaibigan? Sabi ko nga, doon lang po sana tayo sa totoo. Maging patas po tayo,” he added.
Coming from the province, Go believes that appointing other probinsyanos to serve in government is a non-issue as long as they do the right thing and avoid corruption.
“Kami po ni Pangulong Duterte ay mga probinsyano na nagtratrabaho ng matino, tumutulong sa mga Pilipino at nagsusumikap na maibangon sa krisis ang ating bansa. Ano po ang masama kung kumuha siya ng mga probinsiyano para tulungan siyang magserbisyo sa bayan?” said Go.
“Ang pangunahing bilin nga ng Pangulo sa kanyang mga ina-appoint: ‘Just do what is right and avoid corruption.’ Wala sa usapan ang korapsyon. Kasi kung gusto mo talagang tumulong sa administrasyon, gagawin mo kung ano ang tama,” he added.
The senator went on to say that he and Duterte are working together with other co-equal branches in order to eradicate corruption in the Philippines despite the reality that it is difficult to fully accomplish such goal.
“And if you believe that people have committed crimes and should be punished, then file the necessary cases or give our prosecutors sufficient evidence to ensure that these people are indeed punished. Patunayan natin kay Pangulong Duterte at lalo na sa mga kababayan natin na may kahihinatnan ang mga hearing na ito,” he said.
Go then emphasized that while he supports the upper chamber’s collective goal to find out the truth, he also urged his colleagues to listen and review all the facts before making any conclusion or judgment.
“But if we do not know how to listen or, worse, 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?” said Go.
He criticized the manner in which the investigations are conducted, calling them “bullying.”
“Alam ninyo po, magkasama tayo, lalong-lalo na po sa laban sa korapsyon sa gobyerno, sana naman po sa tamang paraan. Hindi po sa bullying na pamamaraan,” he urged.
The ongoing inquiry, according to Go, has redirected the Health Department’s focus away from the COVID-19 response. He also stated that certain health officials have grown afraid to take action as a result of the probe.
“Importante sa ating lahat ang COVID-19 response. We cannot afford to fail. Buhay po ang nakataya, buhay po ang nakasalalay dito. Tumataas ang kaso, 22,000 cases po kahapon, naging dominant variant na po ngayon ang Delta. Nakakatakot po ito. Pero habang tumataas ang kaso, tayo nag-aaway dito. Hindi po ito nakakatulong. Kung merong kakasuhan, kasuhan na po at ikulong na po, para makapagtrabaho na tayo,” said Go.
“Marami pong natatakot gumalaw ngayon. ‘Yung mga opisyales ng gobyerno, takot na pong gumalaw, wala nang gustong gumalaw kaya po natatagalan lalo. Habang naghi-hearing, tumataas ang kaso, hindi na po nakaka-focus ang government workers natin, lalo na ‘yung mga DOH officials at ‘yung involved sa vaccination efforts natin dahil takot na pong gumalaw,” he added.
While government detractors want to discredit the government’s COVID-19 response, according to Go, he assured that there’s no “grand scheme” of corruption during the pandemic.
“Hindi po papayag si Pangulong Duterte. Galit po kami ni Pangulong Duterte sa mga magnanakaw,” he said.
Go then repeated his call for his colleagues to observe fairness and due process in the ongoing investigation because it is what the Filipino people deserve.
Bong Go asks Gordon to inhibit as chair of Blue Ribbon
WHILE he recognized the crucial role of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee in probing allegations of corruption, Senator Christopher Bong Go raised a possible conflict of interest on the part of the Committee Chair, Sen. Richard Gordon, who also serves as chair of an organization which entered into financial transactions with an agency that is part of the ongoing investigation.
In a privilege speech delivered at the Senate Session on Tuesday, August 31, Go stated that the “Filipino people deserve fairness and due process” from a committee that is held in high regard and plays a major role in the government’s anti-corruption drive.
“The Filipino people deserve fairness and due process, most especially in a committee that we hold in high regard. Napaka-crucial (ng role) ng Blue Ribbon dahil aminado naman tayong lahat na para umunlad ang bansa, kailangan linisin ang gobyerno,” said Go.
“Bilib ako sa accomplishments ng Senado, lalo na sa kontribusyon nito laban sa korapsyon, kaisa ninyo ako diyan. Anumang anomalya sa gobyerno, kaisa ninyo akong labanan ‘yan. Mula 2019 … marami na tayong nadiskubre, nai-report, at naaksyunan upang matugis ang mga magnanakaw sa kaban ng bayan. Halos lahat niyan ay malaking itinulong ng mga Blue Ribbon hearings,” he affirmed.
Go, however, expressed concern over the committee’s investigation into the handling of the COVID-19 funds, noting that the chair leading the inquiries also heads the Philippine Red Cross, which entered into a multi-million peso Memorandum of Agreement with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation early on in the pandemic.
“Hindi ba may conflict of interest na isa sa iniimbestigahan mo ay katransaksyon ng organisasyong pinamumunuan mo? Nagtatanong lang … Dagdag pa nga diyan, hindi ba disadvantageous sa gobyerno at against the law ang paghingi ng advance payment? Anyway, let us save that discussion for another forum,” continued Go.
“In the spirit of fairness and impartiality, shouldn’t the Blue Ribbon Committee chair inhibit himself from further hearing all matters involving PhilHealth? Make no mistake … I will not present any conclusions here without due process and fairness. Tinuturuan ako ng tama at kailanman ay magiging patas ako. Sana naman maging patas rin kayo,” he urged.
The PRC is a non-profit humanitarian organization that has provided disaster relief and emergency assistance in the Philippines, among its other contributions. In May 2020, it entered into a multi-million peso agreement with PhilHealth that required an advance payment of P100 million which may possibly be in conflict with auditing rules and regulations.
The Senator emphasized his respect for the committee chair but noted that Gordon has shown unequal treatment of his colleagues. Go called him out for failing to afford him the respect and courtesy befitting of a fellow senator and encouraged the latter to exercise fairness and respect due process in order for the truth to come out for the benefit of the Filipino public.
“Sabi niya pa naman, patas siya. Patas nga ba? Sabi niya, lahat pwede magsalita sa hearing niya, totoo nga ba? Sabi niya, the truth must come out, pero bakit parang iba ata pinapalabas niya? Prangkahan lang. Doon lang tayo sa totoo. Hayaan nalang natin ang publiko ang humusga, anyway napanood niyo naman po,” continued Go.
“Malaki ang respeto ko sa inyo noon pa … Palagi akong nagpapakumbaba sa inyo, kaya siguro ang trato mo sa akin hindi kapwa Senador. Kahit sa mga hearings … ang trato mo sa akin parang resource person lang na pwede mong barahin habang nagsasalita. Other Senators were accorded the privilege to have an opening statement in the hearings. Bakit ako kailangan mag-stick sa topic na gusto mo?” he pointed out, before adding that Gordon also unfairly scolded him for PhilHealth’s alleged delayed payments to the PRC.
”Pati ako nadadamay tinatawagan mo, bakit hindi nababayaran? Ako, kasamahan mo sa gobyerno, papagalitan mo kami, ano namang kinalaman ko? Tulay lang ako … sa Executive para mapabilis ang lahat ng proseso,” maintained Go.
The senator stated that he is already being careful with his words because of his respect for the institution and his colleagues. But just like them, he pointed out that he too represents the Filipino people to whom he owes the privilege to serve and speak in this chamber.
He added that he always abides by President Rodrigo Duterte’s instructions to speak out on any wrongdoing and expressed disappointment at the proceedings for failing to be impartial in probing the allegations of anomalies in the use of COVID-19 funds.
“Tulad ng bilin sa akin ni Pangulong Duterte, kung may nakikita akong mali, magsasalita ako! Mapapaisip ka talaga dahil sa hearing sila na ang nagtatanong, sila ang nag-iimbestiga, sila rin ang sumasagot, sila na rin ang huhusga at gagawa ng konklusyon. I know this is not a judicial court but it does not take a lawyer to figure out that you cannot be the judge, jury, and executioner all at the same time,” said Go.
“Ang nagtatanong ay sila na rin ang sumasagot, sila na rin ang humusga at may agad nang nagawang konklusyon. Bakit sa rami ng resource persons na ipinatawag, parang iilang Senador lang ang nagkekwento ng kanilang bersyon at interpretasyon. Bakit niyo pa pinatawag kung kayo rin lang po ang magsasalita?” he asked, before adding that his colleagues already seem to have a narrative or position in mind.
”Kapag pinagsalita ninyo at hindi nakalinya sa gusto ninyo, nagagalit at naiinis kayo. 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.”