SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go demanded that government agencies ensure that all funds spent in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic will be fully accounted for. He stressed that “especially in times of crises, every peso counts. For every peso wasted or stolen, lives are put to risk.”
This came after President Rodrigo Duterte, during his Talk to the People aired on August 25, pushed for stricter measures to guarantee that public funds are accounted for, especially during the pandemic. The President also asked Congress to exercise its oversight functions to ensure that funds are not wasted or stolen amid the ongoing health crisis.
Go echoed the sentiments of the President and reminded government officials to always prioritize the welfare of ordinary Filipinos, especially the poor and the vulnerable.
“Hinihikayat po natin ang lahat ng opisina ng gobyerno na siguraduhing lahat ng pondo na ginagamit natin sa ating laban kontra COVID-19 ay para sa kapakanan ng taumbayan. Siguraduhin natin na mararamdaman at mapapakinabangan ito ng lahat ng mga Pilipino, lalo na ang mga mahihirap at pinaka-nangangailangan ng tulong,” Go said.
During his Talk to the People address, the President vowed to take responsibility for all public funds spent in the government’s efforts against the virus.
“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,” Duterte said.
Go, for his part, warned government workers that anyone who will abuse authority, misuse public funds, or engage in corrupt practices will be prosecuted and held accountable. He also urged them to cooperate in the ongoing investigations and support the campaign to end deep-rooted, systemic and systematic corruption in government.
“Kung walang itinatago, dapat mag-cooperate. Gawin natin ang lahat para malinis ang mga ahensya, mas mapaganda ang serbisyo sa tao at hindi mahawahan ang iba,” Go said.
“Naniniwala akong meron pa naman diyan na gusto talagang magsilbi with all honesty and integrity kaya hindi ako nawawalan ng pag-asa. Kailangan lang ng mabisang gamot na tatalab talaga upang tuluyang matanggal ang korapsyon sa ating sistema,” he emphasized further.
Go also said he would not hesitate to “talk like an opposition” when it comes to corruption issues in order to expose wrongdoings and hold the culprits accountable.
“As a legislator, parte ng mandato ko ang mag-fiscalize at siguraduhin na nasusunod o naiimplementa ang mga batas. Sa mga kasamahan ko sa gobyerno, kahit magka-alyado tayo, basta may mali, magsasalita po ako. Umabot na sa punto na sinabihan ako ng Pangulo na ‘to talk like an opposition’ kapag corruption na ang pinag-uusapan,” he said.
Meanwhile, following its ratification by both Houses of Congress, the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or the “Bayanihan 2,” which seeks to help the economy recover from the effects of the pandemic, now only needs to be signed by the President to become a law.
To improve transparency and efficiency in the use of the funds, the enator is supporting proposals to digitalize the distribution of cash aid and subsidies.
“Isa pong paraan para ma-improve ang transparency at efficiency sa paggamit ng pondo ng bayan ay ang paggamit ng digital platforms sa distribution ng cash aids at subsidies,” Go said.
This is in line with the call of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez for the digitalization of cash aid distribution to eliminate corruption in the process. He said that direct distribution of cash aid should be made through banks or e-wallets to avoid intermediaries handling cash.
Just recently, Go filed a measure institutionalizing the transition of government transactions to e-governance amid the current challenges caused by the pandemic.
Senate Bill No. 1738, or the E-Governance Act of 2020, mandates the government to establish an integrated, interconnected, and interoperable information and resource-sharing and communications network spanning the entirety of the national and local government, an internal records management information system, an information database, and digital portals for the delivery of public services.
“We should adopt more efficient, responsive and modern ways of transacting with our citizens. This will effectively make the government more in tune with the changing times,” Go explained.
The senator also said that the public can more effectively demand accountability from negligent or erring public officials, especially those who handle the delivery of frontline public services.
“E-governance will reduce red tape, eliminate corruption, enhance transparency, provide safe and convenient delivery of services to the people and encourage citizen feedback and participation in governance,” he added.