MANILA - Opposition stalwart Mar Roxas on Tuesday shrugged off old issues that could harm his bid for a Senate seat in May.
Roxas' name has been dragged into some of the controversies of the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.
These include the handling of the relief operations in the aftermath of supertyphoon Yolanda in 2013, the defective patrol vehicles of the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the operation that led to the death 44 members of the PNP Special Action Force in 2015.
"Anong nangyari sa pera ng Yolanda? Ang katotohanan, ang pera ng Yolanda pumasok sa Department of Finance, hindi naman sa kamay ko," said Roxas during DZMM's "Ikaw na Ba? Senatorial Candidates' Interview".
(What happened to the money for Yolanda? The truth is, the money for Yolanda went to the Department of Finance, not through my hands.)
Roxas, a former senator and trade secretary, was interior secretary during the Aquino administration.
He said that there is no Commission on Audit (COA) report which says the money passed through him or that there were missing funds.
Yolanda, then the strongest storm ever recorded on land, killed more than 7,000 people. Tacloban City was among the worst-hit areas.
On the SAF 44 tragedy, Roxas reiterated that he was kept out of the loop in the Mamasapano operation that led to the death of 44 cops.
"Sinikreto sa amin. So, ang kalungkutan ko doon is: ilang buhay kaya ang masasalba ko kung nalaman ko 'yun at nakipagcoordinate ako kay [Defense] Secretary Voltz Gazmin. Kung alam ko na may operation na ganun, nasabihan ko siya," he said.
(It was kept secret from us. How many lives would have been spared had I known about it and I would have coordinated with Defense Secretary Voltz Gazmin. Had I known about the operation, I would have informed him.)
Roxas also parried allegations of irregularities in the purchase of Mahindra vehicles, an Indian brand, by the PNP.
"Yung sa Mahindra, walang charge, walang COA report. At in fact, yung specs na sinasabi na ginamit nun purchase ng Mahindra na ito is the same specs na ginagamit sa ngayon ng PNP. Hindi binago," he said.
(There was no charge, no COA report. In fact, the specs they say was used in the purchase of Mahindra vehicles are the same specs used by PNP now.)
In 2017, COA flagged the PNP for purchasing over 2,000 patrol vehicles deemed unfit for police operations.
The 2017 COA report particularly flagged the 1,656 Mahindra Enforcer patrol units worth P1.5 billion and 398 Mahindra Scorpio light transport units worth P349 million, which the audit firm said were purchased without any operations needs assessment.
The vehicles were worth P1.8 billion in 2015.
COA also noted that the minimum standard specifications for the vehicles, such as seating capacity, torque details, and piston displacement capacity, were lowered, causing the recurring problems on acceleration and engine performance, among others.
"Ayun sa ating batas, kung sino ang mag-submit ng lowest bid 'yun ang kailangang tanggapin. Ang pinaka-importante dito, sinunod ang batas at pasok ito sa lahat ng specs ng NAPOLCOM [National Police
Commission] at PNP nung panahon na yun," he said.
(Under the law, the one who submits the lowest bid is the one who should be accepted. The important thing here is that the law was followed and it fit all the specs of NAPOLCOM and PNP at that time.)
Roxas is among the probable winners of the upcoming May elections, landing in the 8-15 bracket of a December 2018 Pulse Asia survey.
He also ran but failed in his bids for the presidency in 2016 and vice presidency in 2010.