MANILA - Senator Richard Gordon asked President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday what the chief executive is hiding amid the latter's attacks against him, the Senate, and the Commission on Audit as questions have been raised on the government's spending for pandemic response supplies.
"Ano po ba talaga ang tinatago ninyo?" Gordon said in an interview on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, addressing Duterte.
(What are you hiding?)
With the way Duterte has been "angrily" reacting, from the time the COA flagged the health department's transactions until lawmakers launched their probe, it appears he is "involved" in the alleged anomalies in government, Gordon said.
The senator said even the president's reactions have gone personal against him.
"Siya ang namemersonal. Hindi po ako namemersonal," Gordon said, saying he is just fulfilling his oath to the public.
(I am not being personal. He is the one who has gone personal.)
He lamented that even the Philippine Red Cross, which he chairs, is being dragged into the issue.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, chaired by Gordon, has been probing the government's transaction for the procurement last year of personal protective equipment from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. despite having a paid-up capital of only P625,000 in 2019.
Duterte had said there was nothing irregular in the procurement, and there was no overpricing as alleged.
"Makinig kayo sa Friday, ilalabas ko lahat ng record ng Pharmally na 'yan... At hindi fake news, totoo po 'yan," Gordon said as the inquiry is set to continue then.
(Watch out on Friday, I will release all the records of Pharmally... And all are authentic, they are not fake news.)
Gordon recalled Duterte's meeting with Pharmally executives, including Linconn Ong, and with Chinese businessman Michael Yang in attendance, in March 2017. He said Yang was later appointed as presidential economic adviser.
On the side of the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service, which transacted with Pharmally, Gordon said, "Sino ang nag-appoint ngayon kay (Usec. Lloyd Christoper Lao?... Sino nag-appoint kay (Atty. Warren Rex) Liong, ngayon nasa Ombudsman?"
Lao was in charge of the allegedly anomalous and overpriced procurement contracts with Pharmally, while Liong is a former director at the (DBM-PS and now Overall Deputy Ombudsman.
Gordon said Lao helped the presidential campaign of Duterte in 2016, while Liong worked when Duterte was vice mayor of Davao City.
"Nagtatakip kayo. From the very beginning, iwas-pusoy kayo. Iniiwasan n'yo. Pinapa-iwas n'yo ang issue sa COA. Pinapa-iwas yung issue sa Senado," Gordon said, referring to Duterte.
(You are trying to cover something. From the very beginning, you are avoiding something. You are asking COA to avoid the issue. You are asking the Senate to avoid the issue.)
Gordon lamented that Duterte is not protecting the interest of the people.
"Hindi niyo pinoproteksyunan ang taumbayan. Ang pinoproteksyunan ninyo, 'yang mga racketeer na 'yan (na) ginamit ang pera ng taumbayan, Mr. President," he said.
(You are not protecting the people. You are only protecting racketeers who are taking advantage of public funds.)
"Bakit 'di n'yo ipagtanggol ang taumbayan? Yun pinagtatanggol n'yo, yung mga taga-Pharmally?"
(Why don't you defend the people? Why are you defending people in Pharmally?)
"Habang lumalabas ito, talagang nagpapawis kayo nang malapot sapagkat papalapit na nang papalapit sa inyo… Kayo nagsimula niyan. Kayo nakipagkita kay Pharmally. Kayo nag-appoint sa mga taong iyon," Gordon said.
(As more information unfold, you are definitely sweating profusely because all these are heading toward you... You started these all. You met with Pharmally executives. And you appointed these people.)
Responding to Duterte's statement that he can prevent his Cabinet officials from attending congressional inquiries citing "abuse of authority" by lawmakers, Gordon said there is abuse of authority and betrayal of public trust when one is preventing the truth from coming out.
"Mahaba yung trail eh, na pinipigil mo yung COA, pinipigil mo yung Senado. Ngayon, ayaw mo na papuntahin yung mga tao mo," he said.
(There is a long trail of your restrictions, from the COA, to the Senate. Now, you are barring your people from attending the congressional inquiries.)