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PACC wants Robredo probed for 'competing' with gov't COVID-19 efforts

A ranking official of President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-corruption body on Thursday urged the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to launch a probe against Vice President Leni Robredo over her relief drive that allegedly undermined efforts of the national government amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Over the past few weeks, Robredo’s office has been active in providing services for health workers and other frontliners, including donation of PPEs, free shuttle services, and free dormitories. The OVP has partnered with private donors to raise funds

Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Manuelito Luna wanted a probe of Robredo’s “illegal solicitations, actions that compete with, or calculated to undermine national government efforts in this time of public health emergency or national calamity.”

“Being a part of the national government, Robredo is barred from competing with the DOH (Department of Health), DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and OCD (Office of Civil Defense/NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), or undermining their efforts, and from soliciting donations, in cash or in kind, from the taxpaying public, especially since funds have already been appropriated or set aside for relief  assistance, disaster mitigation, rehabilitation,” he added.

Luna said Robredo may have violated the NDRRMC Law, the Solicitation Permit Law and related issuances as well as the measures and protocols of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), the government body supervising efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Ridiculous, out of touch

In response, Robredo's office called the PACC statement "so ridiculous, so inappropriate, so out of touch."

“Since Day One of the COVID-19 crisis, Vice President Leni has done all she can to help health workers, government institutions, and ordinary Filipinos overcome the challenges they have had to face due to the restrictions on travel, the shortages in supplies, and she done all this without requesting additional public funds or seeking expanded powers,” said lawyer Barry Gutierrez, spokesperson for Robredo.

“She did this because she saw a need, and she took action to meet it. She did this because it was the right and responsible thing to do,” Gutierrez added.

Gutierrez said that it is baffling that the PACC would rather call for a probe on the Vice President who is doing relief efforts when the world is facing the worst crisis since World War II as declared by the United Nations.

“Health workers all over the country are running out of protective gear, and they need all the help they can get, regardless of where it comes from. I am certain that all these groups that have come together to help, the OVP included, would only be too thrilled if national government agencies came in with their larger budgets and bigger organizations to provide all the equipment and supplies that these institutions need,” Gutierrez said.

“In the meantime, rest assured, Vice President Leni will continue to do all she can to help,” Gutierrez added.

'Personal opinion'

Meanwhile, PACC Commissioner and spokesperson Greco Belgica said the call issued by Luna was only a personal opinion and does not reflect the stand of the anti-corruption body.

“PACC is not asking anyone to investigate VP Leni Robredo for helping frontliners and the needy. On the other hand, we are thankful to everyone who are helping including the VP,” Belgica said.

“This is not the time for politicking. We are not concerned with any personality.  Our main concern is to make sure all the needy Filipinos get all the help they need the President promised.”

Asked if the PACC would admonish Luna for his statement against Robredo, Belgica said, “Let’s heal as one muna.”

As of April 2, the Office of the Vice President has earmarked P5.9 million for the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment  (PPE) sets for the health workers and front liners and donated P5.3 million worth of extraction kits to Research Institute for Tropical Medicine which are needed to conduct COVID-19 testing.

The P5.9 million OVP budget for PPEs is part of the P42 million which the OVP fund drive raised with its private partners for the purchase of PPE sets for health workers and front liners which is still ongoing.  The PPE sets bought from these donations have already been distributed to at least 100 hospitals across the country.

The OVP has also provided shuttle service as well as distributed food packs to health care workers affected by the ban on mass transport resulting from the enhanced community quarantine of Luzon due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as four dormitories for healthcare workers and other frontliners.

Likewise, the OVP and its private partners also provided food packs were also given to uniformed personnel manning the checkpoints within Metro Manila. --with Llanesca T. Panti/JST, GMA News