MANILA — Former Ombudsman and 1Sambayan convenor Conchita Carpio Morales on Wednesday chided the Duterte administration over its COVID-19-related expenditures, and urged her successor to look into the matter.
At a forum organized by 1Sambayan, Morales said the government should be more "intelligent" in spending, a joke, she pointed out, in reference to its massive intelligence funds.
A total of P13.465 billion worth of expenses described as “confidential, intelligence, extraordinary and miscellaneous” were recorded in 2019, according to the Commission on Audit’s financial report dated Dec. 14, 2020.
"Wish ko lang sana, malaking intel funds, so may intelligent spending rin; intelligence sa paggamit ng perang hiniram, at intelligent handling ng pandemic response. Joke lang ito kasi alam niyong hindi ito pinaggagamitan ng intel funds,” Morales said.
1Sambayan is a coalition of individuals and groups criticizing the policies of President Rodrigo Duterte and aiming to field a single slate for the 2022 national elections.
The former Ombudsman said that spending on COVID-19 response should be seriously looked into amid supposed overspending on items such as personal protective equipment (PPE).
She noted that based on studies by economic experts, items procured were 2 to 52 times larger than the median price, such as face masks worth P1,400.
“Naduduling na ata ako sa dami ng overpriced items,” Morales said.
Asked during the forum on how to make erring government officials accountable, the former Ombudsman said her successor, Ombudsman Samuel Martires, may want to investigate the alleged corruption and overpricing.
“The Ombudsman should initiate administrative and criminal proceeding, if he finds grounds. Check niya if ang finding niya, sa tingin, ay mayrong pruweba to segue into a preliminary investigation, mag-conduct ang Ombudsman ng preliminary investigation,” Morales said.
While she acknowledged the efforts of government workers, she emphasized that the pandemic response of the administration is still wanting.
“We are all at risk - you, the one behind you, the one who sleeps beside you, the one you are embracing. This government, while it has done a lot, is not doing enough,” Morales said.
Morales ended her talk with a quote from Lee Kwan Yew: “If you vote in jokers, cranks, weak men, charlatans with some gift of the gab, you run a very serious risk of losing everything you have.”
“Ang tanong ko po, you want to run the risk of losing what you have?” Morales asked.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque had repeatedly said that the administration showed "excellent" management of the COVID-19 pandemic.