Gordon claps back at Duterte: ‘You are a cheap politician, Mr. President!’

Senator Richard Gordon doubled down on his criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte, calling him “cheap” for attacking the ongoing probe into anomalous pandemic contracts linked to businessmen close to Duterte. 

On Friday, September 17, Gordon lambasted the President for defending his embattled former economic adviser Michael Yang and ex-budget undersecretary Lloyd Christpher Lao, who are both embroiled in the questionable deals the government entered into with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation in 2020 and 2021. 

“I am really sorry for you, Mr. President. Ang ipinagtatanggol ’nyo si Lao? May utang na loob kayo dahil sa eleksiyon? You are a cheap politician, Mr. President. Cheap politician, as cheap as they come, Mr. President. I’m sorry,” said Gordon as he presided over the blue ribbon committee’s seventh hearing on the pandemic contracts

(I am really sorry for you, Mr. President. You’re defending Lao? You are indebted to him because of the elections? You are a cheap politician, Mr. President! Cheap politician, as cheap as they come, Mr. President. I'm sorry.)

“And, Mr. President, ang ipinagtatanggol ’nyo si Yang? Mr. President, kailangan ’nyo bang ipagtanggol? Bilyonaryo ’yan!” added the senator. 

(And, Mr. President, you’re also defending Yang? Mr. President, do you really need to defend him? He’s a billionaire!)

A Rappler investigation showed that Yang, through a network of companies, has links to Pharmally, the fairly new firm with a small capital that somehow managed to bag P10 billion worth of pandemic deals in the Philippines

The Senate probe later revealed that Yang is actually a financier and guarantor of Pharmally.

Lao, meanwhile, was the one who signed the Philippine government’s contracts with Pharmally as then-chief of the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service (PS-DBM).

Lao is now taking cover under Duterte’s Bayanihan law to rid himself of accountabilities over the various red flags that senators have raised in relation to PS-DBM’s deals with Pharmally. 

Lao, who was a “volunteer” election lawyer for Duterte during the campaign in 2016, used to work under Duterte's longtime aide-turned-Senator Bong Go when the latter was still with the Presidential Management Staff.

Go continues to deny his links to Lao and even accused Gordon of bullying him during the Senate hearings.

No more respect for Duterte

Despite the glaring evidence being uncovered by senators, Duterte continues to protect Yang, Lao, and Go. 

Gordon said on Friday that he had lost his respect for Duterte, hitting the foul-mouthed President for attacking the Catholic Church and for his “shoot-to-kill” orders in the bloody drug war that has killed thousands of suspects.

The International Criminal Court is set to investigate Duterte over the alleged crimes against humanity committed not just in his nationwide drug war, but also the extrajudicial killings by the Davao Death Squad when he was still mayor and vice mayor of Davao City.

“Mahirap kayong tangkilikin, Mr. President, because you do not act like a President. Today, I tell you, you are not a president the Filipino people can respect. Nobody talks to you in international conferences because nauna ’yung reputation [ninyo] na mapagmura, mapusok, at talagang sinasabi ninyo, ‘Kill kill kill,’” said Gordon.

(You are difficult to support, Mr. President, because you do not act like a President. Today, I tell you, you are not the president the Filipino people can respect. Nobody talks to you in international conferences because of your reputation as a foul-mouthed and aggressive leader who says “Kill, kill, kill” precedes you.)

Gordon denies politicking

Gordon also countered Duterte’s accusation that he was supposedly using the blue ribbon committee to advance his personal interests.

He reminded the President the panel was only doing its job of investigating corruption cases in government. 

Gordon also said he might end up not running in 2022. The senator earlier said he was deciding whether to run for president, seek reelection as senator, or run for Olongapo City mayor in 2022. 

“Mr. President, wala akong ambisyon. Malamang ’di na ’ko tatakbo, sa totoo lang eh. Ayoko na eh. Nakapagsilbi na po kami. Kaya ’wag ’nyo ’ko sabihang kami’y namumulitika rito. Wala ho akong plano ngayon,” Gordon said. 

(Mr. President, I don't have any ambitions. Likely I would not run, honestly. I don’t want to anymore. I have already served. So don’t accuse me of politicking here. I don’t have any plans right now.)

Gordon, however, has not always been critical of Duterte. 

Back in 2016, Gordon led a Senate investigation into Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, where thousands of drug suspects had died in both legitimate police operations and vigilante-style killings. 

Gordon said then that neither Duterte nor the state should be held accountable for the drug war deaths.

The senator had also been criticized for being an enabler of the Duterte government’s attacks against opposition Senator Leila de Lima, who is still in jail over what she has described as trumped-up drug charges against her. – Rappler.com

Read the other stories from the September 17, 2021, Senate blue ribbon committee hearing: 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.