President Rodrigo Duterte maintained that there was no corruption in the utilization of the government’s pandemic funds, which are now the subject of a Senate hearing due to alleged procurement irregularities.
“I would like to disabuse the minds of the detractors of government. Walang nangyaring corruption sa mga procurement ng gobyerno,” Duterte said in a taped address televised early today, Sept. 8.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has been hearing alleged irregularities in the handling of P67 billion worth of government funds meant to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, where contracts were reportedly awarded to favored suppliers. The investigation came off a report by the Commission on Audit flagging deficiencies in the disbursement of the said funds.
But Duterte brushed aside the allegations and defended yet again embattled Health secretary Francisco Duque.
“Si Duque ang nagpapatakbo niyan, hayaan mo siya. Let him make the programs and spend the money,” said Duterte.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also defended the procurement of personal protective equipment against allegations of corruption.
Roque also reiterated that when the contract to buy face masks at P27 was made in April 2020, the suggested retail price during that time was P28.
“Meron bang overpriced sa PPE? Ang sagot, wala,” said Roque.
During the briefing, Duterte also admitted his “mistake” in initially calling off the requirement for wearing face shields in public.
“Ako noon sabi ko tanggalin na ninyo yung face shields kasi binabasa ko noon sa Amerika lahat, wala naman face shields. Sabi ko puwede na naman siguro tanggalin yan,” said Duterte.
During his address aired on Wednesday, President Duterte said that the mandatory use of face shields was his call due to the Delta COVID-19 variant threat. pic.twitter.com/AQ4oTtpW2h— The Philippine Star (@PhilippineStar) September 8, 2021
But the president said he was forced to reinstate the requirement due to the onset of the COVID-19 delta variant, which is a more transmissible mutation of the virus.
“Pero nung dumating itong variant na Delta, natakot ako. Yun mali ko yun, ako ang nagsabi na wag na, admitahin ko yun, walang problema, akin yun, it was my call,” Duterte said.