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COA to collect liabilities; Gordon, ex-SBMA execs owe P146.8 million–Duterte

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The Commission on Audit has ordered Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to collect some P146.8 million in disallowed expenses from its former and current officials, including Senator Richard Gordon, the agency’s former chairman, President Rodrigo Duterte revealed Tuesday night.

“As for Gordon, the Commission on Audit in an order of execution, instructed SBMA chairman Wilma Eisma to immediately cause the collection of settlement of the P146.8 million liability of various former and current SBMA officials including Senator Richard Gordon for the liability that amounts to roughly P86 million,” Duterte said in his pre-recorded Talk to the People.

“COA also instructed SBMA to withhold payment of salaries. Your salaries will not be given if it won’t be collected,” he added.

The President had directed the Office of the Solicitor General to tell the Commission on Audit to collect P140 million in government funds from Gordon, who chaired SBMA from 1992 to 1998.

Duterte said COA had issued a notice of disallowance for P140 million in funds to the SBMA.

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The statement continues a word war between the President and the Senate over the latter’s investigation into government’s COVID-19 pandemic deals led by a committee under Gordon.

Last week, Gordon blamed the President for the supposed “delay” in the Senate’s probe after he barred executive officials from attending the hearings.

In his opening speech at the 14th hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigation, panel chair Gordon said Duterte’s order makes it difficult for lawmakers to look into the allegedly anomalous transactions. 

“I would like to inform our fellow Filipinos that if there is indeed a delay in the investigations, it is the fault of the President of the Philippines,” he said.

“If there is no one that would appear from the executive branch, it will be hard for us to get data. This would drag on and because it is hard to investigate because of the absence of these officials, the Filipino public is on the losing end. They have the right to know where the corruption lies,” the senator added.

Gordon also emphasized that the Senate is ready to file “something” in the Supreme Court that would question the President’s order. 

He also said that while Duterte “hates” corruption, he admitted doing so during the Founding Anniversary of the Philippine Chinese Charitable Association, Inc. on June 28, 2017. 

He said this after Duterte touted this week that he became president because he was not corrupt. 

The lawmaker then read what Duterte said during the event: “I hate corruption. Hindi ako nagmalinis, marami rin akong ninakaw pero naubos na. Corruption is really out during my term. (I am not clean, I have also stolen a lot of money but it has already been spent.)”

“My answer is simple: You admitted yourself that you stole from government. We did not say it, you said it,” Gordon told Duterte.

“Well, your response is revealing regarding who you appointed. We did not conclude anything. We just said you should explain,” he added.

Duterte in early October said he signed a memorandum prohibiting Cabinet members from attending the Senate probe on the Pharmally deals because they supposedly do not have the time to participate.

The President also accused the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee of blatant disrespect of resource persons.

Shortly after Duterte’s directive came out, the Philippine Bar Association said the move “upsets our system of checks and balances and transgresses the doctrine of separation of powers among the 3 branches of government.”

Senators on Oct. 6 reeled with the absence of government officials in the executive branch and focused instead on the Pharmally executives. 

The Senate panel is investigating Pharmally after records showed that the budget department’s procurement service awarded billions of pesos worth of government contracts to the company that only had less than a million pesos in paid-up capital.

The government denies there was overpricing and said the deals were above board.

The panel has so far recommended the filing of various charges against Pharmally’s officers, Chinese businessman and former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang, and former budget Undersecretary Christopher Lao, among others, due to the allegedly anomalous transactions. Macon Ramos-Araneta

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