Duterte assures full accounting of COVID-19 funds
President Rodrigo Duterte has assured of full accounting of the funds that the government has been spending for its responses on the coronavirus crisis.
Duterte even ordered the concerned government agencies to publish all transactions, including those related to COVID-19, and urged Congress to form an oversight committee to check all expenses.
"I want to let everyone know that as upon my oath of office, don't worry, all that money spent for the fight against COVID will be accounted. I will hold myself responsible for this sole and solemn duty of answering for and in behalf of the executive department of all the funds that were spent in the fight against COVID," he said in a taped televised message on Monday night but was aired on Tuesday morning.
Duterte said if there will be any irregularity in the disbursement of funds, he will be the one to endorse the case to the prosecuting office.
"I will sign myself," he said.
Duterte directed the National Task Force Against COVID-19 to properly report how all the funds were spent and their intended purpose.
He said the public should not mix up the issue on Philippine Health Insurance Corp., which is being investigated for alleged massive corruption, and that of the COVID-19.
"Allow us time to do our thing, spend the money and there will always be a time for reckoning and that will be the time when we account for the money that we have used in the fight against COVID," he said.
Duterte also vowed to impose stricter measures for the disbursement of the fund for the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or the Bayanihan 2, which is up for his signature. Congress has allotted at least P140 billion for the executive department to spend for other programs to alleviate the people's lives amid the pandemic.
Duterte said he will require all government agencies to publish in three newspapers of general circulation all of their transactions, including the name of the bidders and where they live.
"For the Cabinet, another publication on their disbursement, how much they spend for this month or much better, if you want every 15 days. Every 15 days you would know how much a department has disbursed money of the people," he said.
Duterte said he also wants expenses in PhilHealth to be published.
"Especially PhilHealth, even the (expenses on) paperclips should be published and who is the bidder who will supply the paperclip...so I hope that I have made myself clear on this. More measures to come," he said.
Duterte underscored the need to "spend wisely and correctly" in this time of pandemic.
He said he has been with the government for about four decades and he is about to retire.
He said there is no use to engage in corruption.
"If there's money, I can assure, Congress is free to participate or create oversight of committees - committees of all sort. Whatever committee you can think of for COVID one or two...oversight, undersight, sidesight, do it and if you want to report to the people weekly so that all of us have work...it is not a matter of separation of powers. It's like an expanded oversight if you want to. It is never illegal to know where your money is going," he explained.
"I am urging Congress, as a matter of fact, I am demanding Congress to join us in putting up measures to ensure that the money is spent to its purpose," he said.
"It might really cost a lot of time for the bureaucracy but if you want every transaction to be audited right away for you to peruse and understand, we can do that. I repeat, we must participate everything that will prevent corruption," Duterte added.
Some quarters have been questioning how the government has spent the huge allocation for COVID-19, including the funds which were earmarked under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or Bayanihan 1. Celerina Monte/DMS