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 Senator 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, Go said “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 .
“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,” Go said.
However, Go 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 d’yan, hindi ba disadvantageous sa gobyerno at against the law ang paghingi ng advance payment? Anyway, let us save that discussion for another forum.
“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 added.
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 stressed 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 powede 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.
“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 hearing, ang trato mo sa akin parang resource person lang na puwede 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?” said Go, 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,” Go pointed out.
The senator said 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.
“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 nagkuwento ng kanilang bersyon at interpretasyon. Bakit niyo pa pinatawag kung kayo rin lang po ang magsasalita?” he asked, 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 wanted to hear, they will say the resource person is evasive,” Go said.