“DO not destroy the government.”
President Duterte sent this message to Vice President Leni Robredo in response to the latter’s criticism over the administration’s alleged glaring lack of leadership in addressing the impacts of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Ito namang kay Leni… In her ending statement, (she) said that kung hindi ko daw gawain, ng gobyerno, gagawain ng tao. Well, sa panahon itong pandemic medyo desperado ang mga tao tapos dagdagan ninyo na mga ganoon (This thing about Leni… In her ending statement, she said that if I or the government, will not do it, the people will take action.
In this time of pandemic, people are already desperate and then you add these statements…) Please do not add fuel to the fire. You will just destroy government. Huwag ninyong sirain ang gobyerno kasi masisira ang tao (Do not destroy the government as it will destroy the people),” Duterte said in a recorded message that was aired yesterday morning.
Duterte said the government is trying its best to address all dilemmas related to the pandemic but he does not believe that issues would be solved anytime soon, even if he dies in the process.
Besides, Duterte said Robredo was all talk as he noted that the Vice President did not even show the basis for her statement nor offered proof of the alleged shortcomings of administration.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Robredo “appears to be either completely ignorant or just partisan blind” to facts that some of the suggestions that she made have long been undertaken and is continuously being done by the government, such as intensified contact tracing, mass testing, improvements in the government’s health care capacity and implementation of various cash subsidy programs.
“Given that her suggestions have either already been done or are work in progress, it is crystal clear that VP Robredo is trying to undermine the efforts of the government in managing the crisis. She appears to have mastered the art of appearing politically relevant while exhibiting her pretended concern, and succeeding to mislead her supporters and the gullible,” Panelo said.
He said the Vice President should instead lead the opposition, along with critics and detractors of the administration, in persuading the public to observe the minimum health requirements of wearing face masks, face shields, frequent washing of the hands with soap and maintaining social distancing in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, an ally of Robredo, shot back that the Vice President merely provided solutions “to the terribly managed COVID-19 pandemic response” which was not in any way meant to destroy the government.
“Hindi ito destroying the government. Nagbibigay siya ng solusyon dahil palpak ang pamahalaan. Nagbibigay siya ng solusyon dahil napakarami pa lalo ngayon ang nagkakasakit at milyon na ang nawalan ng trabaho (That is not destroying the government. She just offered solutions because the government has been remiss. She offered solutions because millions have been getting sick and millions have lost their jobs),” Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan said that Robredo’s suggestions could not possibly destroy the country, but rather the failure of the government in the COVID-19 response and the massive corruption in the government.
“It is not VP Leni’s words, but Duterte and Duque’s failure to address the incompetence and the massive corruption that is destroying the government,” he said.
The Vice President, in a public address aired Monday night, said the government needs to implement a more comprehensive, quick, and clear plan to deal with the health pandemic.
Robredo also said current government efforts including the Bayanihan 2 package may not be enough to address the COVID-19.
President Duterte said he will assume full responsibility for all government spending in connection with his administration’s response to the COVID-19 health crisis and vowed to put behind bars anyone who will be caught misusing or engaging in irregularities in the disbursement of public funds.
“Do not worry about the money spent in the fight against COVID, it will be accounted for. I will hold myself responsible for this sole and solemn duty of answering for and in behalf of the Executive Department of all the funds that were spent in the fight against COVID,” Duterte said in mixed English and Filipino.
He also affirmed his trust on his Cabinet officials who are at the forefront in the fight against the highly-infectious and fatal virus, among them Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Task Force against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr., and Social Welfare Secretary Ronaldo Bautista.
“Itong nagnakaw ng pera ng bayan lalo na ‘yung sa COVID, they will go to prison. I am sure. ‘Pag wala akong nakita na mapakulong, mag-dampot ako ng tatlo sa kanila, (tapos) kulungin ko. Pilitin kong kulungin para may makulong lang talaga sa p***** i**** ginawa nila dito sa pera ng tao (Those who stole the people’s money, especially those for COVID efforts, they will go to prison. If I do not see anyone jailed, I will pick three people and jail them. I will force their imprisonment so there will be people jailed for the s** of a b**** thing that they did to the people’s money),” he said.
Duterte directed concerned executive agencies to publish in three newspapers of national circulation the data on how they used their funds, where these went or who were the bidders involved in public efforts, and for what projects and programs the monies were spent, among others.
In August, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said the government has allotted P376.57 billion to various government agencies to support their COVID-related programs, with P266.526 billion from pooled from discontinued programs, activities and projects; P100.191 billion from special purpose funds; and P9.8 billion from the regular budget appropriations of agencies.
The government, under the Bayanihan 2, has allotted P140 billion for a stimulus package and P25 billion in standby funds.
The President said he would impose stricter measures on the use of the Bayanihan 2 funds.
Duterte also urged Congress to create an oversight committee that can report to the public weekly about where the funds went, how it was used and how much.
“I am urging Congress …I am [even] demanding Congress to join us imploring measures to ensure the money is well spent. We must participate in everything [of an initiative] that will prevent corruption,” he said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said there is no need for Congress to create an oversight panel just to scrutinize the government’s spending in the fight against COVID-19.
“Oversight is an inherent function of the Congress and we have not been remiss in the exercise of the same even without prodding from the President,” Lacson said in a statement.