Sotto defends Senate from Duterte's tirades: 'Bong Go should have told him'

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Friday, August 27, defended the Upper Chamber from President Duterte's tirades about their investigations.

Senate President Vicente 'Tito' Sotto III (Senate PRIB)

Sotto corrected Duterte who, in his pre-recorded speech aired Thursday night, told the public not to believe in Senate inquiries as he claimed that "nothing comes out of it."

Duterte also accused senators of using the Senate investigations for "posturing".

"I will send him the Senate report on the Comm of the Whole investigation on PhilHealth," the Senate chief said in a text message when sought for comment.

Sotto referred to the legislative inquiry he led in August last year, on the controversial payments made by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) thru its Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM), which senators questioned for "favoring" health care facilities not catering to COVID-19 patients, and for lack of liquidation as state auditors also observed.

The Committee of the Whole also looked into the state insurer's alleged overpriced information and communication technology (ICT) procurement plan, the supposed manipulation of its financial status, as well as irregularities in its legal sector.

Despite denial by officials, senators were convinced that there was "rampant" corruption in the PhilHealth and recommended that graft and malversation charges be filed against PhilHealth executives, including Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who chairs the PhilHealth Board.

", all his Philhealth former officers have pending cases filed (because of the Senate investigation)" Sotto reminded Duterte.

Sotto also said Senator Christopher "Bong" Go, the president's former special assistant, could have informed Duterte about the Senate's efforts.

"Sen. Bong Go should have told him," he told the Manilla Bulletin.

He surmised that Duterte was again "misinformed or he forgot."

"As far as I know, the Ombudsman usually relies on Senate investigations and reports for their preliminary investigations," Sotto maintained.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is currently investigating the Department of Health's (DOH) disbursement of COVID-19 funds following the Commission on Audit (COA) finding "various deficiencies" in the agency's expenditures, as well as the delays in its issuance of benefits for health workers.

Last Wednesday, August 25, Sotto addressed criticisms about the chamber's inquiry on the issue, citing "recurring problems on the utilization of the Department of Health budget."

"Bakit daw tayo nag-iimbestiga? Eh paulit-ulit ang problema nila, eh (They are questioning why we are investigating. Because the DOH keeps on repeating its problems)," Sotto said.