PACC exec wants Leni probed for COVID relief ops

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    Vice President Leni Robredo did not take the accusations seriously. (Photo from the OVP)

    COMMISSIONER Manuelito Luna of the President Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) wants the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate Vice President Leni Robredo for “competing” with the Duterte administration and engaging in “illegal solicitation” amid the worsening health crisis caused by the deadly COVID-19.

    But this is purely Luna’s personal opinion, and does not reflect the sentiment of the agency, PACC commissioner and spokesman Greco Belgica said on Thursday,

    “This is not the time for politicking. We are not concerned with any personality,” Belgica replied when asked if the PACC was initiating any complaint against the Vice President.

    Robredo herself did not take the news seriously.

    The Vice President twitted the administration by posting on Twitter a short video of herself doing a hair flip.

    Robredo threw shades at the administration, saying it was going after her while she was busy working amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “Una, electoral protest. Sunod, impeachment complaint, sedition case, indirect contempt. Ngayon, ang gusto NBI investigation (First, it was an electoral protest. Next, an impeachment complaint, a sedition case, indirect contempt. Now the they want an NBI investigation),” she tweeted.

    She added: “Kailangan ba du’n personal appearance o Zoom? Dami pa kasing trabaho (Should this be personal appearance or can this be done through the Zoom app? I still have a lot of work to do).”

     COMPETITION?

     Luna said the NBI should look into Robredo’s “actions that compete with, or calculated to undermine, national government efforts in this time of public health emergency or national calamity.”

    “Being a part of the national government, Robredo is barred from competing with the DOH (Department of Health), DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and OCD (Office of the Civil Defense)/NDRRMC, or undermining their efforts, and from soliciting donations, in cash or in kind, from the taxpaying public, especially since funds have already been appropriated or set aside for relief  assistance, disaster mitigation, rehabilitation, etc,” Luna said in a text message sent to reporters.

    He claimed Robredo’s violations included “illegal solicitation” and fund raising, free shuttle service and dormitories for health workers, and provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, which allegedly violated the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRMC) law and its implementing rules and regulations.

    He said the Vice President should also be held liable for violating the “Solicitation Permit Law” and related issuances, and the measures and protocols set by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emergent Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to arrest the spread of the deadly disease.

     ‘SO OUT OF TOUCH’

     Barry Gutierrez, spokesman of the Vice President, said Luna’s statement was “so ridiculous, so inappropriate, so out of touch, that I had to verify if it was really true.”

    “I am deeply disappointed that it was,” Gutierrez said. “Anyone who insists that bringing much-needed assistance to hospitals, health workers, and poor Filipinos is somehow a ‘competition’ (with the administration) has absolutely no understanding of the gravity of the crisis we are all facing.”

    Gutierrez said Luna should ask himself if it is the best time to talk about investigations, “particularly of people who have done nothing except do the best they can to help out.”

    “I leave it to the PACC, and the rest of national government leadership, to answer this question for themselves,” he said, pointing out that the COVID-19 pandemic is the worst crisis the world has even faced since World War II.

    Gutierrez said that since the start of the crisis, the Vice President has been helping health workers, government institutions, and ordinary Filipinos to deal with travel restrictions and supply shortages.

    He said Robredo has mobilized private citizens to procure PPE for doctors and nurses, organized free transport for those that needed to engage in essential travel, brought extraction kits to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), provided food to police and soldiers manning checkpoints, and set up dormitories so health workers have a place to rest near their hospitals.

    “She has done all this without requesting additional public funds or seeking expanded powers. She did this because she saw a need, and she took action to meet it. She did this because it was the right and responsible thing to do. And now, unbelievably, the PACC wants to ‘investigate’ her for it. And for what reason? Because she was ‘competing’ with other agencies,” he said.

      LUNA SLAMMED

    Senators slammed Luna for his statements.

    Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the PACC move will not help improve the health dilemma that the government is facing.

    “Pwede ba PACC tumulong na lang kayo? Huwag niyo na dagdagan ang kapalpakan. Hindi kayo nakakatulong. Magsi-ayos kayo (Please PACC can you just lend a helping hand? Do not add up to this government’s blunders. You are not in any way helping. Straighten up),” Pangilinan said in a tweet.

    Sen Panfilo Lacson also took to Twitter his disappointment with the PACC’s action. “PACC COVID-19 motto: Lahat ng tutulong, ikukulong (Everyone who will help will be jailed).”

    Magdalo party-list Rep. Manuel Cabochan III, a member of the opposition, said it is disappointing that those who are performing their duties “are being attacked, while there are many government officials who were not even seen by their constituents since this crisis started.”

    “Instead of targeting the Vice President, maybe the administration could take her practices as models to improve their work and bring the best service to the people,” he said.

    Opposition leader Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the threat of prosecution under the newly signed Bayanihan to Heal as One Act “is now the unjust reward for those who answer the call of patriotism in the in the midst of the pandemic.”

    “Should Good Samaritans who are helping combat the deadly COVID-19 be summoned by government to account for their volunteer work?” he said. “Has President Duterte not asked Filipinos to do their share in the battle against the lethal novel coronavirus?”

    Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin, who is with the House minority bloc, said Luna’s statements “smacks of bad faith and reeks of insensitivity to the plight of ordinary Filipinos, the doctors and nurses and other frontliners.” – With Wendell Vigilia and Raymond Africa