Senator Panfilo Lacson on Sunday said there was no sufficient basis as yet to conduct a hearing on the allegations of corruption raised by Senator Manny Pacquiao against several government departments, citing the lack of documents or sworn statements from witnesses.
He acknowledged, however, that the Blue Ribbon committee is allowed to conduct an investigation in aid of legislation even without a referral.
“It now behooves the chairman to make the call on the issue at hand,” Lacson said, referring to Senator Richard Gordon, who heads the Blue Ribbon Committee.
However, Gordon on Sunday said he was perplexed by Pacquiao's call for a probe when he would not be present for the investigation.
Gordon said he was also made aware that the senator — Pacquiao, who remained unnamed in his statement — who filed for the resolution would be out of the country after the filing.
“What will be strange, if not irregular however, in this situation will be the reality is while the accuser has made an accusation, he opts not to be present when the investigation is supposed to be conducted,” Gordon said.
“The gauntlet had been thrown down, he has chosen to pick it up. He who has picked it up cannot suddenly leave and ask someone else to wage the fight in his stead,” he added.
Pacquiao, an eight-division world champion boxer, has a scheduled match against Errol Spence in Las Vegas on August 21 and left on Saturday night to train in the United States for the match.
But Gordon said: “We are elected public officials, first and foremost.
Our primary duty is service to those who have voted us into office.
Any other duty, especially to the self, must always come second.”
In the meantime, Lacson said, the onus is on Pacquiao at the very least to show some specifics in support of his allegations.
He branded as "serious and sensitive in nature" Pacquiao's allegations against government agencies that he said were marred with corruption.
"It can better serve the purpose of the expose if relevant documents that he said he has would be submitted to the Senate President or the Blue Ribbon Committee, so we can assess what next move to take on the issues that he presented in yesterday’s virtual press conference," Lacson said.
On Saturday, Pacquiao branded as corrupt the departments of Health, Social Welfare and Development, Environment and Natural Resources and Energy, but merely vowed to submit documentary evidence to the President and the Blue Ribbon Committee.
Pacquiao, acting president of the ruling PDP-Laban, is planning to run for president next year, but has been increasingly criticized by the party's chairman, President Rodrigo Duterte.
In his press conference, Pacquiao urged the President not to be angry, as he merely wanted to help his government by exposing corruption.
Lacson earlier told Pacquiao that to land a knockout against corruption, he should make sure all his exposes are backed by solid evidence.
Lacson said this was his and Senate President Vicente Sotto III's advice to Pacquiao.
Senator Christopher Go, a close associate of the President, called on Filipinos to help identify, prosecute, and hold accountable corrupt officials.
He said the President's office and his are always open to listen to reports of corruption, in line with efforts to put an end to such acts.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on Sunday said there were no missing funds in the disbursement of financial aid for low-income families bearing the brunt of lockdown restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"All aid distributed is supported by liquidation reports that can be shared, if necessary. The agency ensures that the processes adopted by FSPs (financial service providers) on payouts are in accordance with BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas)-approved processes and existing government accounting rules and procedures," the department said in a statement.
Pacquiao also alleged that P14 billion in aid meant for 1.8 million beneficiaries was sent through the Starpay app, with only 500,000 beneficiaries downloading the app.
But DSWD said it terminated the services of FSPs, including Starpay, in April 2021 which prompted them to manually send the payouts for the unserved second tranche of cash aid beneficiaries.
Still, the Gabriela party-list group called on the DSWD to disclose its deal with e-wallet app Starpay and other Filipino-owned financial technology companies tapped for the release of the social amelioration funds.
In related developments:
* DIWA party-list Rep. Michael Edgar Aglipay of the House Blue Ribbon committee on Sunday backed a probe of allegations on the release of the social amelioration funds amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the chairman of the committee on good governance and public accountability, it is my duty to initiate or support any investigation that seeks to expose any corrupt practices that not only tarnishes the image of the government, but also prevents our countrymen from receiving even the most basic of services,” he said.
* The Philippine National Police said its procurement of hundreds of millions of pesos worth of body cameras was "fully-accounted" following Pacquiao's corruption allegations against various agencies.
PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said his office was still coordinating with Pacquiao's to determine if he had mentioned the police in his alleged list of corrupt government agencies. The PNP had saved some P45 million from its allotted funds and combined these with P19 million savings to procure a CCTV Rapid Deployment System for around P60 million, Eleazar said.