NBI urged to probe Robredo for helping frontliners, ‘competing’ with gov’t

Sofia Tomacruz, Mara Cepeda

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NBI urged to probe Robredo for helping frontliners, ‘competing’ with gov’t
(UPDATED) The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission's Manuelito Luna says it is 'illegal' for Vice President Leni Robredo to aid frontliners during the coronavirus outbreak

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Manuelito Luna wants the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate Vice President Leni Robredo for what he deems were her office’s efforts to “compete” with the national government during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Luna said the efforts of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) to help frontliners “compete with, or [are] 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/NDRRMC (Office of Civil Defense/National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council), or undermining their efforts,” Luna said in a statement.

How did the OVP ‘compete’ with the Duterte administration? Luna cited the OVP’s initiatives to provide free shuttle services and dormitories, as well as personal protective equipment (PPEs), for health workers.

Luna also claimed it is “illegal” for Robredo to help frontliners and solicit donations from the public since the national government has allocated funds for assistance.

Robredo’s office, through her flagship anti-poverty program Angat Buhay, has been soliciting donations to provide personal protective equipment (PPEs) for health workers, COVID-19 extraction kits for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, food for police and soldiers at checkpoints, and free dormitories for frontliners.

She also coordinated with fashion designers to help create PPEs now that global stocks are dwindling.

Robredo’s office has so far raised about P40 million as of Wednesday, April 1.

What is the OVP’s response to the PACC? Robredo’s spokesperson Barry Gutierrez said the PACC’s call to investigate the Vice President is “deeply disappointing” as  she has been dedicating her time to aiding frontliners.

“The PACC statement is so ridiculous, so inappropriate, so out of touch, that I had to verify if it was really true. I am deeply disappointed that it was,” the Vice President’s spokesperson said in a statement.

“Anyone who insists that bringing much needed assistance to hospitals, health workers, and poor Filipinos is somehow a ‘competition’ has absolutely no understanding of the gravity of the crisis we are all facing.”

Gutierrez also maintained that assisting frontliners is the “right and responsible thing to do.”

“She has done all this without requesting additional public funds or seeking expanded powers. She did this because she saw a need, and she took action to meet it,” he said.

Who have been called by the NBI? The NBI is looking into other alleged violations.

So far, the bureau has summoned Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto for supposedly violating Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, and Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III for breaching quarantine protocol.

“More than a dozen” people were also summoned by the NBI over their social media posts related to the coronavirus. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.
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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.