SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go, a member of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, has expressed his support for a Senate investigation into the use of COVID-19 funds, adding that the Filipino people have the right to know the truth how public funds were spent.
“Ako po ay miyembro ng Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. Karapatan po naming busisiin ang bawat isyu para maipaliwanag sa tao ang totoo,” Go said in a radio interview on Saturday, August 21.
“Importante pong malaman ng publiko ang katotohanan. Dapat pong malaman ng publiko kung ano talaga ang nangyari ng mga panahon na ‘yun. Pera ng tao ‘yan dapat accounted lahat at dapat walang masayang o mawala,” he added.
During a Senate hearing conducted on August 18, former undersecretary of the Department of Budget and Management Lloyd Christopher Lao was mentioned when senators brought up the issue of prices of masks and face shields bought by the government at the early part of the pandemic that had been included in the initial findings of the Commission on Audit.
Lao, in a television interview, defended himself, saying that the masks and face shields were not overpriced and that the prices were “one of the cheapest” during that time last year.
Citing a report presented by Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, Go also mentioned in his interview that supplies of masks and face shields were low during the start of the pandemic last year.
“It was explained po by Sec. Mon Lopez kung gaano kahirap ang supply noong nakaraang panahon, na explain naman doon, ika nga nung unang panahon, ‘di nga natin alam ang face shield saan kukunin, saan bibilhin, ‘yun po ang sinasabi na may scarcity po at walang supply kaya mahal,” explained Go.
“At si Pangulo naman ang nag-utos na makakuha ng supply ngunit trabaho na ng executive ‘yan, ng DBM, DOH to explain para maintindihan ng publiko,” he added as he urged the concerned agencies to fully explain the purchases being questioned.
If irregularities are indeed proven, however, Go said that cases must be filed against those involved to hold them accountable.
“Lahat po ay dapat gawin. I am even urging the COA kung may nakita kayong irregularities, kasuhan na agad,” he said.
“‘Di naman po sa dini-dipensahan natin ang DOH. Kung nasa mali sila, talagang busisiin at papanagutin… siguro naging prudent din sila sa paggamit ng pera, pero kung pumasok kayo sa katiwalian, ibang usapan na ‘yan,” explained Go.
“Kapag napatunayang pumasok ka sa corruption o katiwalian kahit saang opisina ka pa, pasensyahan tayo, hindi namin palalampasin ni Pangulong Duterte ito. Mananagot ka sa kasalanan mo sa gobyerno at sa mga Pilipino,” he added.
He, however, stressed that government agencies must also be given the chance to rectify issues in accordance with the processes provided by law. “Trabaho nila is to rectify ang mga observation (ng COA) within (the specified period). Kapag ‘di naayos, kasuhan na agad para matigil ang haka-haka.”
“‘Di lang sa DBM, ‘di lang sa DOH, sa lahat po ng ahensya, bigyan n’yo ng pagkakataong sagutin, rectify ‘yung observation kasi nasa state of public health emergency tayo ngayon,” he added.
Go appealed to fellow lawmakers and the public that while they rigorously seek the truth, objectivity must be maintained in order not to pass judgment too early without knowing all the facts.
“Ako po ay nakikiusap —- hindi man mamatay sa COVID-19, baka naman mamatay sa pressure. ‘Wag natin pahirapan ang mga taong nagtatrabaho ng maayos. Trabaho naman ng COA na busisiin at bigyan ang ahensya ng pagkakataon na sagutin kapag ‘di nila nasagot, kasuhan na agad. Kahit si USec. Lao na ‘yan, kapag napatunayang sangkot ay kasuhan na agad para tumigil na haka-haka,” he said.
Meanwhile, Go clarified that Lao was never his aide, despite claims made by various people and news organizations.
“Itong si dating DBM USec. Lao ay dati ring naging campaign lawyer ni Pangulong Duterte noong 2016. Nanilbihan siya sa PMS, ‘di po siya directly under sa akin,” explained the Senator.
Go explained further that his office as Special Assistant to the President from 2016 to 2018 only had supervisory powers over the Presidential Management Staff where Lao belonged then, as well as other offices in the OP, and they do not report directly to him nor do they function as his ‘aide’.
“‘Di porke’t nakapagtrabaho ka sa opisina na meron akong (oversight) eh aide na kita. Hindi porke’t nakatrabaho kita ng 2016 ay aide na kita,” he added.
Go then encouraged the Department of Health, as well as concerned agencies, to ensure that COVID-19 funds are spent as soon as possible as provided by law, with no irregularities involved.
“Ako naman po, bilang inyong senador at bilang Chair ng Senate Committee on Health, ay pinaghirapan natin ang pondong ito, pinaghirapan natin na ma-aprubahan. Nasa executive na ang trabaho. Nasa DOH na kung paano nila gastusin, trabaho namin bilang miyembro ng Senate Blue Ribbon Committee na busisiin,” he said.
“Sa DOH, basta gamitin niyo pondo sa tama at walang matulog na pondo, may unobligated daw, knowing the President po, ‘di naman nakikialam ‘yan paano mo patatakbuhin ang opisina mo basta gamitin lang sa tama (ang pondo),” he ended.