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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Duterte steps up attacks on Gordon as Blue Ribbon calls anew his friend Michael Yang

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PRESIDENT Duterte late Thursday stepped up his attacks on Sen. Richard J. Gordon, who leads a Blue Ribbon inquiry into the questioned use of billions in pandemic funds involving a friend of the President.

Duterte said he wants the Commission on Audit (COA) to investigate the finances of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), a non-government humanitarian organization, to reveal how its funds were allegedly used by Gordon, also its chairman, for political purposes. 

In his public address, Duterte accused Gordon of using PRC as a “milking cow” to finance his election campaigns since the lawmaker was appointed as Red Cross chairman from 2004 to the present. 

The senator had earlier told CNN Philippines’s “The Source” he was dismayed that Duterte had taken the matter to a personal level, and noted that the President was showing signs of panic as the inquiry advances. He said such remarks would not distract the Senate probers.

Duterte on Thursday cited the report of an unnamed senator in 2017, who supposedly accused Gordon of allocating P193 million worth of pork barrel funds to PRC so he could use it for his election campaign.  

“I would like to see the audit [the finances] of the Red Cross and maybe I can. I will demand the executive department that we be furnished copies of your audit taken by COA,” Duterte said. 

Duterte’s latest attack on Gordon comes just days before the Blue Ribbon holds its third hearing, for which it has sent fresh subpoenas to Michael Yang, a former presidential adviser linked to Pharmally, a company awarded P8.7 billion in contracts in the summer of 2020 despite its small capitalization (P625,000), scanty track record, and reports that some key executives evaded criminal charges overseas. Duterte has defended Yang as someone who helped bring in Chinese investors into the country.

On Thursday night, Duterte said he wants Gordon to be replaced as head of PRC after the lawmaker threatened to stop the testing of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) last year after the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) took months to pay PRC for about a billion worth of tests it conducted. 

During that time, Gordon explained that unless they were immediately paid by PhilHealth, they would be forced to stop conducting the test since they are running out of funds to procure the necessary supplies to conduct more tests. 

PhilHealth was later able to settle its late payment and PRC continued with its testing of OFWs.   

In the first months of the pandemic in 2020, the government had relied heavily on Gordon and the PRC to help set up testing sites when these were barely available across the country. 

Duterte also accused PRC, under the administration of Gordon, of overcharging for Covid-19 vaccines manufactured by Modern as well as not giving discounts to senior citizens and persons with disabilities for Covid-19 testing.

“You have been there for quite some time. Is it not fair? Give it up  and give others a chance  [to become PRC chair],” Duterte said referring to Gordon.

Duterte also accused Gordon of lobbying the appointment of some officials to “protect his interest” when he still served as chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).  

This was the second time this week Duterte singled out Gordon, whose Blue Ribbon Committee is currently investigating alleged anomalies in the government’s procurement of billions worth of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other medical , as well as the involvement of Yang in the said deal.  

Duterte insists the Senate probe is baseless and is being used by some lawmakers to promote themselves to the public ahead of the 2022 national and local elections.  

Last Monday, Duterte criticized Gordon for being “too talkative” and being fat. He also criticized the hair style of Panfilo Lacson, another senator active in the inquiry.  

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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