MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — Sen. Manny Pacquiao on Saturday bared some P10.4 billion in Social Amelioration Program funds are missing, with about 1.3 million beneficiaries supposedly unable to get critical pandemic aid as he questioned the use of unknown e-wallet Starpay for the program.
This is only the tip of what he said was massive corruption he has uncovered, describing the amount involved as "dizzying."
"Nalulula po ako. Doon po sa binanggit ko na isang isyu lamang P10.4 billion na po kaagad ‘yon. Malaking pera po," he said.
Pacquiao alleged that out of the 1.8 million social amelioration program (SAP) beneficiaries, only 500,000 were able to successfully use the Starpay app. He said one needed to download the application to claim their aid.
“Batay sa ating imbestigasyon lumalabas na sa inisiyal na disbursement sa Starpay account para sa 1.8 million beneficiaries, na katumbas ng 14 billion… Bakit parang 1.8 million na binigyan ng SAP sa Starpay ay 500,000 lamang po na katao ang na-download nito,” he said, citing his investigation.
He said he would file a resolution seeking a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigation on Starpay and the other agencies allegedly involved in corruption by Monday.
“May hawak akong mga ebidensya, matibay na ebidensya pero ire-refer ko ito sa committee… Katulad ng sinabi ko, sa ebidensya ko, P10.4 billion ang nawawala,” according to Pacquiao.
(I have evidence, strong evidence but I would just refer this to the committee. Just like what I said, based on the evidence that I have, some P10.4 billion in funds are missing.)
The lawmaker said the Department of Social Welfare and Development allotted P50 billion pesos for the application, when it supposedly just had paid up capital of P62,000.
“Sa mga hindi po nakakaalam, hindi ka pwedeng mag-receive and withdraw kung wala kang nada-download na Star Pay app. Ang tanong ko po, ano ang nangyari sa 1.3 million na katao na hindi naka-download sa Star Pay app ngunit sa record po ay nakatanggap sila ng ayuda,” Pacquiao said in a virtual presser held before his flight to the US for an upcoming fight.
(To those who do not know, you cannot receive and withdraw if you are not able to download the Starpay app. But my question is, what happened to the 1.3 million people who weren’t able to download it but were able to claim their government aid?)
He said there were many complaints on the app's service. The lawmaker, however, admitted to only having seen the app “partially.”
“Maraming nagrereklamo sa app na ‘to dahil pabagsak-bagsak ‘yung… server nila. Madami po talagang problema ‘yan kahit bago lang na company,” Pacquiao said.
(There are many complaints about the apps because their server is faulty. There are many problems in that new company.)
Pacquiao said a witness has knowledge of the alleged corruption involving Starpay but that he could not reveal the identity given the sensitive nature of information involved.
He described the witness as a “relevant source” and “who knows everything.”
In a statement, the DSWD said it is open for investigation.
Social Welfare Spokesperson Irene Dumlao said their department went to Congressional hearings to answer queries on the cash aid distribution.
"DSWD is willing to face any investigating body and present the necessary evidences/ documents to clarify those raised by the good Senator," said Dumlao.
PACQUIAO SAYS NO INTENTION TO ANGER DUTERTE
The lawmaker opened his speech by saying that he did not mean to offend the President after claiming that rampant corruption prevailed under his administration.
President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to get rid of corruption in government agencies during his presidential campaign.
"Mr. President, 'wag po kayo mawalan ng pag-asa, nandito po ako para tumulong sa inyo upang tukuyin ang mga ahensya ng gobyerno na may maling gawain," he said.
(Please don't lose hope. I am here to help you and identify the corrupt government agencies)
His fight for corruption was meant to unite Filipinos, help the poor, and support the chief executive, even vowing to do it as long as he lived.
"Ako ang magiging boses ng mahihirap na tao... Gusto ko maalala hindi world champion... Gusto ko maalala bilang inspirasyon sa paggawa ng tama... nagtuturo sa magandang asal ng Pilipino para sa kinabukasan ng ating bansa."
(I will be the voice of the poor. I do not want to be remembered not as a world champion but as an inspiration of doing good in governance and help the country.)
Pacquiao said the health department and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) were among other government agencies he is investigating.
Pacquiao said the health department was among the most corrupt agencies in the country, which Health Secretary Francisco Duque III denied.
The chief executive earlier threatened to expose Pacquiao as a "liar" if the lawmaker failed to prove his claim that his government is 3 times more corrupt than previous administrations.