PRESIDENTIAL candidates Vice President Jejomar Binay and Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte flung mud at each other over allegations of corruption as the campaign heated up Friday.
Citing an official audit report, a spokesman for Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance said Duterte could face charges for his role in the misuse of P45.8 million in special education funds that were supposed to help students in Davao City.
“If he really were tough on crime and corruption as he projects himself to be, why were there anomalies committed under his watch?” said UNA spokesman Mon Ilagan, citing a Commission on Audit report that cited irregularities in the use of the education fund.
Duterte’s spokesman Peter Laviña quickly denied the allegations, dismissing it as a “desperate… but nice try” to take the heat off the vice president.
“It’s a pity that the camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay’s party is now attempting to paint everyone black out of its desperation to escape the burning allegations of massive corruption hurled against the United Nationalist Alliance standard bearer,” he said.
“We see UNA desperately trying to muddle and confuse the public as it evades the allegations of corruption hounding VP Binay right now,” Laviña added.
Earlier this week, UNA also used CoA reports to highlight some P7.5 billion in unliquidated fund transfers at the Department of the Interior and Local Government when he was still its secretary.
In October, the Office of the Ombudsman found probable cause to file graft and malversation charges against Binay, his son, ousted mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr, and 22 others over the alleged overpricing of a public building when the vice president was still mayor of Makati.
On Friday, Ilagan said the CoA found that various expenses charged to the Special Education Fund were inconsistent with the provisions of the SEF Act.
The commission said the misuse of funds disadvantaged public school students, who could have benefited from the program.
CoA’s audit of disbursement vouchers, Ilagan said, revealed that Davao City’s public schools had unauthorized expenses charged to SEF, including plane fares of coaches and students, fuel for various vehicles, insurance premiums for vehicles, accident insurance for coaches and students, grocery items, medical supplies, and payment for electricity, water, and telephone bills.
CoA said these expenditures should have been charged against the available funds of the Department of Education as the activities and programs were regular functions of the DepEd.
“If the funds were misappropriated even though the money supposedly didn’t go to his pocket, as chief executive of Davao City, isn’t the mayor still liable for technical malversation?” Ilagan said.
“For someone promising to clean up the entire country within six months, why can’t he ensure the proper use of funds in his city?” the UNA spokesperson added.
On the sidelines of Duterte’s campaign sortie in Novaliches, Quezon City, his spokesman Laviña maintained the mayor’s innocence, saying that the issue had already been raised and answered las year.
“There is nothing new here. This is an old information made to appear fresh. I would say, this is a worthless piece of information. But, really, nice try,” Laviña said.
“Based on the information I received from the Department of Education, the questioned funds were used for the promotion of physical education programs, which is allowed under the law.”
Under the SEF Act, funds can be used to improve school facilities, print and buy books, pay wages of teachers, grant scholarships and promote physical education programs, he said.
“The funds were used to send athletes and their coaches to sporting events across the country. These programs are basically designed to promote physical education programs. What’s wrong with that?” Laviña said.
No single case has been filed against Duterte and the other city officials in connection with Binay’s accusations, he said.
“Unlike Binay who is saddled with corruption cases, nothing was filed against Duterte,” he said.
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