Bong Go asks Gordon to inhibit as Chair of Blue Ribbon Committee

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Bong Go asks Gordon to inhibit as Chair of Blue Ribbon since being Chair of Red Cross raises possible conflict of interest; says impartiality must be upheld in Senate probe

While he recognized the crucial role of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee in probing allegations of corruption, Senator Christopher Bong Go raised a possible conflict of interest on the part of the Committee Chair, Sen. Richard Gordon, who also serves as chair of an organization which entered into financial transactions with an agency that is part of the ongoing investigation.

In a privilege speech delivered at the Senate Session on Tuesday, August 31, Go stated that the “Filipino people deserve fairness and due process” from a committee that is held in high regard and plays a major role in the government’s anti-corruption drive.

“The Filipino people deserve fairness and due process, most especially in a committee that we hold in high regard. Napaka-crucial (ng role) ng Blue Ribbon dahil aminado naman tayong lahat na para umunlad ang bansa, kailangan linisin ang gobyerno,” said Go.

“Bilib ako sa accomplishments ng Senado, lalo na sa kontribusyon nito laban sa korapsyon, kaisa ninyo ako diyan. Anumang anomalya sa gobyerno, kaisa ninyo akong labanan ‘yan. Mula 2019 … marami na tayong nadiskubre, nai-report, at naaksyunan upang matugis ang mga magnanakaw sa kaban ng bayan. Halos lahat niyan ay malaking itinulong ng mga Blue Ribbon hearings,” he affirmed.

Go, however, expressed concern over the committee’s investigation into the handling of the COVID-19 funds, noting that the chair leading the inquiries also heads the Philippine Red Cross, which entered into a multi-million peso Memorandum of Agreement with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation early on in the pandemic.

“Hindi ba may conflict of interest na isa sa iniimbestigahan mo ay ka-transaksyon ng organisasyong pinamumunuan mo? Nagtatanong lang … Dagdag pa nga diyan, hindi ba disadvantageous sa gobyerno at against the law ang paghingi ng advance payment? Anyway, let us save that discussion for another forum,” continued Go.

“In the spirit of fairness and impartiality, shouldn’t the Blue Ribbon Committee Chair inhibit himself from further hearing all matters involving PhilHealth? Make no mistake … I will not present any conclusions here without due process and fairness. Tinuturuan ako ng tama at kailanman ay magiging patas ako. Sana naman maging patas rin kayo,” he urged.

The PRC is a non-profit humanitarian organization that has provided disaster relief and emergency assistance in the Philippines, among its other contributions. In May 2020, it entered into a multi-million peso agreement with PhilHealth that required an advance payment of P100 million which may possibly be in conflict with auditing rules and regulations.

The Senator emphasized his respect for the committee chair but noted that Gordon has shown unequal treatment of his colleagues. Go called him out for failing to afford him the respect and courtesy befitting of a fellow senator and encouraged the latter to exercise fairness and respect due process in order for the truth to come out for the benefit of the Filipino public.

“Sabi niya pa naman, patas siya. Patas nga ba? Sabi niya, lahat pwede magsalita sa hearing niya, totoo nga ba? Sabi niya, the truth must come out, pero bakit parang iba ata pinapalabas niya? Prangkahan lang. Doon lang tayo sa totoo. Hayaan nalang natin ang publiko ang humusga, anyway napanood niyo naman po,” continued Go.

“Malaki ang respeto ko sa inyo noon pa … Palagi akong nagpapakumbaba sa inyo, kaya siguro ang trato mo sa akin hindi kapwa Senador. Kahit sa mga hearings … ang trato mo sa akin parang resource person lang na pwede mong barahin habang nagsasalita. Other Senators were accorded the privilege to have an opening statement in the hearings. Bakit ako kailangan mag-stick sa topic na gusto mo?” he pointed out, before adding that Gordon also unfairly scolded him for PhilHealth’s alleged delayed payments to the PRC.

”Pati ako nadadamay tinatawagan mo, bakit hindi nababayaran? Ako, kasamahan mo sa gobyerno, papagalitan mo kami, ano namang kinalaman ko? Tulay lang ako … sa Executive para mapabilis ang lahat ng proseso,” maintained Go.

The Senator stated that he is already being careful with his words because of his respect for the institution and his colleagues. But just like them, he pointed out that he too represents the Filipino people to whom he owes the privilege to serve and speak in this chamber.

He added that he always abides by President Rodrigo Duterte’s instructions to speak out on any wrongdoing and expressed disappointment at the proceedings for failing to be impartial in probing the allegations of anomalies in the use of COVID-19 funds.

“Tulad ng bilin sa akin ni Pangulong Duterte, kung may nakikita akong mali, magsasalita ako! Mapapaisip ka talaga dahil sa hearing sila na ang nagtatanong, sila ang nag-iimbestiga, sila rin ang sumasagot, sila na rin ang huhusga at gagawa ng konklusyon. I know this is not a judicial court but it does not take a lawyer to figure out that you cannot be the judge, jury, and executioner all at the same time,” said Go.

“Ang nagtatanong ay sila na rin ang sumasagot, sila na rin ang humusga at may agad nang nagawang konklusyon. Bakit sa rami ng resource persons na ipinatawag, parang iilang Senador lang ang nagkekwento ng kanilang bersyon at interpretasyon. Bakit niyo pa pinatawag kung kayo rin lang po ang magsasalita?” he asked, before adding that his colleagues already seem to have a narrative or position in mind.

”Kapag pinagsalita ninyo at hindi nakalinya sa gusto ninyo, nagagalit at naiinis kayo. It seems like some already had an answer in their minds and if they did not get what they want to hear, they will say the resource person is evasive.”

Nevertheless, Go stressed his commitment to support the fight against corruption, as demonstrated by his participation in several inquiries including those on the alleged corruption in PhilHealth and the Bureau of Corrections. He called on those who boast about their accomplishments, saying that everyone plays “a part in pursuing a clean government regardless of which branch of government we are in or what position we hold”.

“Nagkaisa tayo diyan na labanan natin ang kalokohan at katiwalian sa gobyerno at pagkakamali, but out of fairness, I am giving credit where credit is due. But let us not brag about it as if the Filipino people owe us anything,” added Go.

The Senator ended his message vowing to resign should he be found guilty of any wrongdoing. He insisted that he stands by his name and reputation as a humble public servant from Davao City.

“Ito lang ang puhunan namin, pangalan at prinsipyo. Mga taga-Davao lang kami at mahal namin ang aming pagseserbisyo sa aming kapwa Pilipino.”