'Large-scale corruption' amid COVID-19 pandemic denied; 'Nothing is proven', says Roque

Published September 1, 2021, 2:41 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang reiterated that there is no corruption involved in how the government manages the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, saying the Senate has proven nothing yet.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque (OPS / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after Senator Panfilo Lacson claimed that there was a “large-scale corruption” involving some parties that were allegedly exploiting the ongoing health crisis.

In his press briefing on Wednesday, September 1, Roque said that the Senate has proven nothing in their investigations.

“Mga kababayan, linawin po natin: Wala pa pong kahit anong napatunayan sa Senado (My fellow Filipinos, let us be clear: The Senate has not proving anything yet),” he said.

Roque, in particular, cited how the Senate was not able to show any evidence that the government purchased overpriced COVID-19 supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPEs) last year.

“Yung overpricing po ng PPE, hindi po nila napatunayan yun kasi wala naman silang mapakita na sa mga panahon na ‘yon na ang P1,700 is overpriced (The alleged overpricing of PPEs, they were not able to prove that because they cannot show that at the time, the amount of P1,700 was overpriced),” he said.

According to the Palace official, the only thing “proven” was that the Department of Health (DOH) underspent their COVID-19 funds.

“If at all, ang napatunayan lang po ang hindi paggastos ng DOH pero ito naman po ay halaga na hindi naman po nawala (the only thing they proved was the DOH not spending their funds but the money was not really lost),” he said.

“Hindi ko po sinasabi na wala na silang pananagutan dahil hindi ginastos dahil siyempre, dapat ginastos naman ‘yan kung naririyan ang pera. Pero hindi po ‘yon pagdarambong (I am not saying that they are not liable because they should have spent the money if it was there. But that is not corruption),” he added.

“Hindi po ‘yon pangungurakot ng pondo, at nandiyan pa rin po ang pondo (That was not an act of stealing money because the funds are still there),” he continued.

The Commission on Audit (COA) has cited deficiencies worth at least P67 billion in the COVID-19 funds of the DOH, raising questions about how the agency handled the coronavirus funds.

Meanwhile, Roque reiterated that President Duterte was already open to accepting the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III if the latter would decide to do so.

He, however, stressed that Duterte will not fire Duque.

“Kung ang gusto ng kanyang ilang mga kritiko ay i-fire si Secretary Duque, sa mata niya wala pong masamang ginagawa si Secretary Duque (If the President’s critics want him to fire Secretary Duque, in his eyes, Secretary Duque didn’t do anything wrong),” Roque said.

“Pero kung ninanais ni Secretary bumitiw (But if Secretary Duque wishes to resign), he (Duterte) will honor and respect that decision,” he added.

President Duterte has defended Duque in many instances last month from allegations of corruption. He even said that he did not mind if defending Duque would cause his downfall.