President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday night threatened to file graft charges against Senator Richard Gordon for purportedly misusing public funds while he was chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), a post he held more than 20 years ago.
In his late night public address, Duterte said the Commission on Audit had issued a notice of disallowance for P140 million to the SBMA while Gordon headed the agency, but did not say when this report was issued.
Duterte said he would ask the Ombudsman if there was a case filed against the senator because the money was not returned.
He also slammed the senator for using the Red Cross ambulances for “cheap political gimmicks,” claiming that Gordon’s face is displayed on the Red Cross ambulances.
The President called on Gordon to settle his obligation with the SBMA. “Kindly settle or [else] I will personally see to it that a case will be filed against you. It’s malversation, the crime is malversation.”
Duterte also urged Gordon to choose between being a senator or chairman of the Philippine Red Cross.
“You are a dual personality which is banned or prohibited by law. It’s illegal actually…That is not allowed. Let go of it because I will insist that you give up one because you cannot be both,” the President said.
Gordon is the chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee that has been investigating the Duterte administration’s purchase of overpriced medical supplies for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid Duterte’s continued attacks, more groups expressed support for Gordon.
Several alumni of the University of the Philippines (UP) Dilliman recently launched an online petition denouncing what they call the “unjust persecution” of Gordon and the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) by Duterte and his allies.
“We stand by and support Sen. Richard “Dick” Gordon in his bold and courageous crusade to unmask the perverse and rapacious theft of the nation’s coffers, and to hold accountable those responsible for the same,” they said in the petition.
They also challenged the President to file criminal cases against the personalities involved in the alleged anomaly and allow the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to do its job “unhampered and free from any threat.”
On Sept. 20, the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) Classes of 1957, 1961 and 1965 also issued a strong statement to express their full support for Gordon for fearlessly calling for public officials to live up to decency in governance.
“It is time to draw the line and demand from our elected officials to put first the interest of Filipinos, especially the medical front-liners, the marginalized and the millions now forced out-of-work by the pandemic, and hardworking small Filipino businessmen now struggling to survive and to keep their workers from starving,” they said.
Other AdMU alumni also lauded Gordon “for his courageous efforts in weeding out scalawags who have allegedly stolen billions of our taxpayers money while thousands of fellow men, women and children are suffering and dying from this deadly pandemic.”
They also expressed gratitude and appreciation for Gordon’s tireless and unselfish efforts in leading the Philippine Red Cross in responding to the needs and demands of the public, 24/7, especially during the protracted pandemic.
On Sept. 21, De La Salle Manila alumni of grade school, high school and college classes of 1961, 1965 and 1970, respectively, conveyed support for the Blue Ribbon’s recent investigation, and lauded Gordon and other senators.
“Senators Richard Gordon, Risa Hontiveros, Franklin Drilon, Panfilo Lacson, Kiko Pangilinan and Ralph Recto: at this crucial moment in our history, you embody the La Sallian mission of promoting and defending the aspirations of the poor and authentic social justice,” they said in their statement.
During the 7th Senate hearing, Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon and other senators commended Gordon’s courage for investigating the alleged irregular procurement of medical supplies and equipment that the government granted to a favored Chinese supplier, Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation.
Duterte on Wednesday also said his administration complied with the Bayanihan to Heal as One At when it procured emergency supplies at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Duterte made the statement in his taped Talk to the People, as he defended the government’s P8 billion purchase of overpriced face masks, face shields and personal protective equipment from a small start-up linked to his former economic adviser.
He said the law allowed the government to procure medical supplies “in most expeditious manner” when COVID-19 hit the country last year.
“What we followed was the emergency form of procurements stipulated under the Bayanihan 1, passed by no less than some of the people questioning it today, which exempted us from these procedures so that we can buy the supplies,” Duterte said.