If they don’t win the national elections next year, former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Thursday, August 19, swore that President Duterte and his “Davao group” will go “straight to prison.”
In a Facebook post, the staunch critic of the President said the Senate hearing on Wednesday, August 18, proved that the present administration earned “billions” from the pandemic.
“It is very clear from the Senate’s hearing yesterday that Duterte and his Davao group took advantage of the pandemic to earn billions through high-level corruption,” Trillanes wrote.
“Kaya siya galit sa COA (Commission on Audit). Kaya kulungan ang diretso ng mga ‘to kapag natalo sila sa 2022 (That’s why he is angry at COA. That’s why they will go straight to prison if they lose in 2022),” he stated.
Senators questioned the purchase of overpriced face masks and face shields by the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (DBM-PS) last year amid the pandemic. The items were said to be worth P42.4 billion.
This inquiry came after COA flagged the health department over “deficiencies” in its management of P67.3 billion of COVID-19 funds. It also flagged the DBM-PS, which used to be head by Christopher Lloyd Lao, a former Palace aide to Senator Bong Go, for the procurement of overpriced medical supplies and then selling them to the DOH.
The medical supplies were bought from China, DBM officer-in-charge Tina Rose Canda told the senators.
State auditors have been flagging government agencies for billions’ worth of questionable procurements in the past year. Aside from the DOH, they also flagged the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), among others.
But during his address on Monday, Duterte told his Cabinet officials not to mind COA’s audit reports and continue their work in addressing the pandemic.
Several politicians criticized the President’s call, saying that the state auditors are constitutionally mandated to publish their reports on how government agencies spend their budget.
Duterte also came to the defense of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III who is, for the second time, embroiled in a possible corruption scandal. The first one was the P15-billion missing funds from PhilHealth, which was investigated last year.
In a separate post, Trillanes said Duque is only a front for the alleged corrupt activities of the President and his Davao group.
“’Di n’yo pa ba makuha? Inuutusan lang ‘yan si Duque kaya pino-protektahan. Ang protektor ang mastermind ng katiwalian. Ito ay wala ng iba kundi si DUTERTE AT ANG DAVAO GROUP!!! (Don’t you get it? They’re just ordering Duque that’s why he’s being protected. The protector is the mastermind of corruption. This is no other than Duterte and the Davao group!!!),” he added.
The Davao group supposedly refers to Duterte’s family, friends, and allies in his home province, Davao.
The former senator ended his post with the hashtag #DutertePinakaCORRUPT (Duterte most corrupt).
Trillanes, chair of the Magdalo Party who has criticized Duterte even before he won as president, is focused on running after the Chief Executive and his allies after they step down from power.