Bong Go encourages public to report anomalies and other acts of corruption amid COVID-19 crisis

In both Senate health committee hearings held last May 26 and 28, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go urged the public to report anomalies and corruption-related acts to authorities, especially if in connection with the purchase or selling of medical supplies and equipment amid the country’s fight to control the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

“Hinihimok ko ang bawat Pilipino na magsumbong kung may nakikitang korapsyong ginagawa ang mga opisyal o pribadong kompanya,” Go said.

“In times of crisis, every peso counts. While government maximizes its limited resources, a lot of our fellow Filipinos have also lost jobs, livelihood and savings. We are fighting for survival — as survival is the name of the game here. We should not allow corruption and abusive business practices to take advantage of the vulnerabilities of fellow Filipinos,” he explained.

“Kung may alam po kayo na mga abusadong mga indibidwal sa gobyerno man o sa pribadong sektor, huwag po kayo matakot magsumbong sa amin ni Pangulo… Ako po mismo magbubulong ng inyong hinaing kay Pangulong Duterte at sisiguraduhin natin na mapoprotektahan po kayo basta magsabi lang kayo ng totoo,” he urged further.

Go has constantly vowed to crack down on any alleged anomaly, especially when it comes to purchases, selling or distribution of medical equipment and supplies. The Senator also underscored the need for all government agencies involved in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic to account for every single peso spent from public funds.

“Handa tayong mag-conduct ng investigation on all of these alleged overpriced medical supplies, equipment and packages, including the COVID-19 test kits,” Go said.

“Kung makikita nating may korapsyon na nangyari, dapat papanagutin natin ang mga ahensya at lalong lalo na ang mga opisyal nito. Wala tayong papalampasin, at wala tayong pipiliin. Pera ng bayan po ito. Gamitin natin sa tama at wasto lalo na’t nakakatakot ang kinakaharap natin,” Go said.

“Dapat malaman natin kung inabuso ba o sinamantala ang pagkakataon ng krisis na ito para kumita ang mga taong nasa likod ng korapsyong ito kung mayroon man,” he added.

As a member of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the implementation of the Bayanihan Heal as One Act, the Senator has repeatedly said that with the funds released by the government to address the health crisis, “every centavo counts.”

The Senator, however, underscored that he would also give government agencies and concerned individuals a chance to explain their side.

He also appealed to private individuals not to take advantage of the situation Filipinos are currently facing. He urged Filipinos to report any anomalous activity being committed by public officials, private individuals, or companies.

In a virtual meeting with the officials and key members of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) on Wednesday, Go also appealed for support and assistance from the businesses community and asked them to help the government by also cooperating in anti-corruption initiatives.

“Hinihiling ko din po na tulungan ninyo kami ni Pangulong Duterte na labanan ang korapsyon sa gobyerno,” Go said.

Meanwhile, Go also assured the public that the government remains vigilant and careful in spending public funds appropriated to combat COVID-19.

“Indeed, we need to improve our capacity in addressing pandemics like this. We hope that the measures we have discussed will address some of our weaknesses and gaps in handling public health emergencies. Let the pandemic be a lesson to all of us and use this experience to improve our health system,” Go ended.

Rep. Duterte asks DOLE XI to explain delay in distribution of cash aid to trike drivers

Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte on Friday has asked the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to explain the delay in the distribution of financial assistance that his office allocated and coursed through the agency.

Rep. Duterte said he allocated P20 million for Davao City tricycle drivers and single parents who were affected by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The money has been downloaded to the regional office of Dole on April 29, 2020.

“It’s been a month but nothing is happening yet? Why? We know the hardship being experienced by these sectors and we wanted to provide relief, that’s why we worked out the release of this budget — but it looks like the money is not being spent for its intended purpose,” Rep. Duterte said.

He said the agency should be held accountable for this.

He said the amount was intended to help around 2,000 tricycle drivers and a number of single parents through DOLE’s program Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers or Tupad.

Rep. Duterte’s office learned that only 297 tricycle drivers are ready to receive the cash aid.

“One month and we are only talking about 297 drivers out of the 2,000 target. And what about the single parents?,” Rep. Duterte said.

He said there is an obvious need for the DOLE to expedite its process — or fix it if it’s the root of the problem.

“We cannot always make excuses. If the process of verification is making the distribution slow, then there is a problem with the process and the problem has to be fixed,” he said.

“These people are experiencing unimaginable hardship these days, and the more we delay the distribution it becomes harder and harder for them,” he added.

He called on DOLE Sec. Silvestre Bello to look into this.

“He should look into this matter and urgently act on this,” Rep. Duterte, adding that “DOLE as an implementing agency has a lot of explaining to do.”

Rep. Duterte also gave financial assistance to 1,451 trisikad drivers in Davao through the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Through the Department of Health, his office also assisted a total of 964 patients at the Southern Philippines Medical Center since the Covid-19 pandemic started.

Both interventions, he said, were implemented with urgency.

“We hope DOLE will also implement the project with sense of urgency,” he said.

Bong Go appeals to LGUs to accept returning OFWs; reminds national agencies to follow health protocols and conduct proper coordination in assisting locally stranded individuals return to their provinces

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go called on the different government agencies to assist all locally stranded individuals in Metro Manila and other parts of the country so that they can safely return to their home provinces amid the COVID-19 crisis. He also urged them to ensure that health protocols are followed and proper coordination between national agencies and local government units are implemented when transporting these LSIs.

“I am urging concerned agencies in the Executive branch to make sure that for every Filipino we send home to their provinces, the necessary health protocols are followed and proper coordination with their home LGUs are implemented in order to avoid health risks and confusion upon their arrival,” he said in a statement.

Go’s appeal is in support of President Rodrigo Duterte’s instructions to the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases that the Department of Interior and Local Government should properly coordinate with concerned LGUs to ensure that safety measures are in place and necessary assistance can be provided to returning residents.

During the Senate Committee on Health hearing held on Tuesday, May 26, Go also appealed to local government units to prepare for the return of LSIs, especially stranded OFWs who wish to go back to their home provinces.

“Tanggapin po natin sila, lalo na sa kanilang mga bayan. Sila po ang ating modern-day heroes na nagtatrabaho at nagpapakamatay po sa ibang bansa. Tulungan po natin sila lalo na sa panahon ngayon na naghihirap sila,” he said during the hearing.

“Huwag na po natin antayin na umabot pa po sa depresyon. Napalayo na po sila sa kanilang mga pamilya for several months or even years, tapos ngayon, pagdating sa sariling bayan, ay ikukulong pa natin sila. Basta kung sumunod na po sila sa mga quarantine protocols, safe, at tested (negative for COVID-19) na po sila, dapat pabalikin na po natin sila sa kanilang mga probinsya para maasikaso at makapiling na po nila ang kanilang mga pamilya,” he added.

Go further urged concerned agencies to hasten the process of the issuance of health certificates of overseas Filipino workers stranded in Metro Manila after complying with the COVID-19 testing and other health protocols. This came after reports about OFWs overstaying in various quarantine hotels for more than two weeks, beyond the prescribed quarantine period.

In a statement, Go said that he “sympathizes with the OFWs who are still stranded in Metro Manila and are in quarantine facilities for more than the prescribed 14-day period despite complying with health protocols and having been tested negative for COVID-19 already.”

Go added that the delay in the release of their health certifications has caused unnecessary burden to them as some OFWs are now even experiencing depression.

“Nakita naman po natin ang mga pagsubok na pinagdaraanan ng ating mga OFWs dahil sa COVID-19. Dapat lang na mapauwi na sila sa kanilang mga probinsya dahil matagal na rin po silang nawalay sa kanilang mga pamilya,” Go said.

“Alagaan po natin sila at suklian natin ang kanilang mga sakripisyo ng mas maayos at mabilis na serbisyo,” he added.

Meanwhile, Go is also asking the different agencies to explain to the public the various government programs and initiatives, as well as the processes to be followed on how the public can benefit from these, to help affected Filipinos who need to go home to their provinces.

“Umaapela po ako sa mga ahensya ng gobyerno na ipaliwanag ang iba’t ibang programa ng gobyerno na pwedeng makatulong sa mga gustong umuwi sa kanilang mga probinsya at kung ano ang proseso na kailangan sundin,” the senator said.

Go clarified that the various “hatid” assistance programs being implemented by various agencies for stranded students, workers, tourists and OFWs, among others, are different from the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program which he proposed and is now institutionalized under Executive Order 114, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“As the proponent of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program, I wish to clarify that stranded workers and OFWs in Metro Manila are not part of the BP2 package. There are other government initiatives in place to respond to their needs,” Go said.

“The BP2 program being implemented by an inter-agency council seeks to assist Filipinos residing in Metro Manila who wish to relocate to their home provinces for good. There is a process in place to ensure their safe travel and the provision of necessary assistance from partner agencies,” the senator explained.

Go said that there are other similar government programs that aim to help stranded workers, students, tourists and OFWs, among others.

“Mayroon pong Hatid Estudyante Para Makabalik sa Probinsya program ang DOTr para sa mga estudyante na stranded. Mayroon ring mga programa ang DOLE, DOTr, OWWA at MARINA para sa mga OFWs na bumalik sa bansa o naipit sa Metro Manila at nais umuwi sa kanilang probinsya,” he said, referring to other government initiatives being implemented by various agencies to help LSIs go home and rejoin their families in the provinces.

“I am also reminding the government to always prioritize the people’s welfare especially in this time of crisis. Magtulungan at magbayanihan po tayo para maiwasan ang hindi pagkakaintindihan at para rin po malampasan natin ang krisis na ito bilang isang nagkakaisang bansa,” Go further said.

“Ang mahalaga, kung anumang programa ‘yan, basta tulungan po nating makauwi ng maayos at ligtas ang mga kababayan nating nanghihingi ng tulong na makabalik sa kanilang mga pamilya. Tulungan natin silang maka-avail ng mga programang mayroon ang gobyerno. Huwag po natin pahabain pa ang paghihirap nila,” he ended.

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Sen. Go calls for probe on alleged overprice of medical supplies

STATEMENT OF SEN. BONG GO

RE: Alleged overpriced COVID related medical supplies, equipment and packages

In times of crisis, every peso counts. While government maximizes its limited resources, a lot of our fellow Filipinos have also lost jobs, livelihood and savings. We are fighting for survival — as survival is the name of the game here. We should not allow corruption and abusive business practices to take advantage of the vulnerabilities of fellow Filipinos.

As Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, we are ready to conduct an investigation on the alleged overpricing of medical supplies, equipment and packages, including COVID-19 test kits, reportedly purchased by the government, or being sold by abusive entrepreneurs.

Also, as a member of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, I have reiterated numerous times that the funds made available to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the needs of our people at this crucial time must be accounted for—up to the last centavo.

Regarding the PhilHealth test package, I expect the management to continue reviewing their case rates. We will also look into this to make sure that PhilHealth rates are in order to get the best value of every single peso the government spends for this.

We will give concerned government agencies the opportunity to explain their side regarding these allegations. Kung may makikitang anumang anomalya, pananagutin natin ang mga opisyal na ito. Wala po tayong pipiliin, wala tayong sasantuhin.

Sa mga pribadong indibidwal naman, huwag ninyo pong pagkakitaan o gawing negosyo ang krisis na ito. Lahat po ng mga Pilipino ay naghihirap, huwag ninyo nang dagdagan pa. Huwag niyo naman pong gamitin ang pagkakataong ito para pagsamantalahan pa sila.

I am urging the Executive Branch, particularly the National Bureau of Investigation, to also investigate and file cases against corrupt officials and private individuals who are taking advantage of this situation to make money.

For the general public, rest assured that your health and safety are being prioritized as we lay down measures and protocols moving forward. Allow me to also reiterate that targeted testing for COVID-19 is being conducted by the government. Tulad ng sabi ng IATF, hindi po pinipilit ang mga pribadong kumpanya na bumili ng sarili nilang testing kits kaya hindi po ito dapat gamiting rason ng mga abusadong negosyante na magbenta ng mga produkto tulad ng COVID-19 test kits na lampas sa tamang presyo.

Kung may alam po kayo na mga abusadong mga indibidwal sa gobyerno man o sa pribadong sektor, huwag po kayo matakot magsumbong sa Office of the President, sa Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission through PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica and their hotlines (09066927324 / pacc.complaints@gmail.com), o sa akin mismo. Ako po mismo magbubulong ng inyong hinaing kay Pangulong Duterte at sisiguraduhin natin na mapoprotektahan po kayo basta magsabi lang kayo ng totoo.

Sa simula pa lang, nagsabi na ako na tanging konsensya nalang natin ang makapagbabantay sa ating mga ginagawa lalo na sa panahon na naghihirap ang ating mga kababayan. Hindi po tayo papayag na may nangsasamantala pa sa panahong ito. Magtulungan nalang po tayo para sa ikabubuti ng kapwa nating Pilipino.

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Bong Go appeals to schools to provide flexible tuition payment schemes, implement alternative distance learning programs and safety measures amid COVID-19 pandemic

Expressing his concern for students and their families who cannot afford to pay tuition fees due to the ill economic effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go called on schools, universities and other educational institutions to provide flexible payment arrangements for school fees to ensure their continuing education amid the public health crisis.

“Maraming nawalan ng trabaho at walang pagkukunan ng pampaaral sa kanilang mga anak. Pwede ba natin luwagan ang payment schemes at bigyan po sila ng palugit sa pagbayad ng tuition?” Go appealed during a hearing of the Senate acting as the Committee of the Whole on Thursday, May 21.

“Baka di kakayanin ng mga magulang ang malaking amount. Importante po hindi sila maantala o mahinto sa kanilang pag-aaral,” he reiterated.

Previously, Go, also sitting as a member of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, also called on the private and government banking and financial institutions, including the Government Service Insurance System, Social Security System and PAG-IBIG Fund, to provide flexible payment terms for personal and commercial loans as most Filipinos lost their jobs and livelihoods amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the hearing, the Senator also asked regarding the schedule of opening of the next school year and steps to be taken by the government in assisting the students, teachers, and non-teaching personnel in schools and to ensure their health and safety.

In response, Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that most teachers, students, school officials and parents still preferred to start the school year in August based on a survey conducted by the department.

“Nagkaroon tayo ng napakalaking survey, more than 700,000 participants—mga teachers, learners, opisyal, parents na sinurvey natin at tinanong natin kung kelan gusto nila magbukas ang eskwelahan, kasi merong ibang private school gusto nila June pa lang magbubukas na sila,” Briones said.

The DepEd Secretary also added that the law specifically provides that school opening may be conducted not later than the last week of August. She also said that they will authorize the use of “blended education” so that teachers can conduct learning remotely to ensure the safety of their students.

“Ino-authorize natin ‘yung tinatawag nating blended education, na halo ang online kasi meron ang iba, gustong magbukas ng June o magbukas kayo pero kailangan, online walang face to face,” Briones also said.

“Pwedeng halo na merong once a week o ano bang arrangement na gagawin, tapos napansin namin, pwede kung online, tiningnan namin ilan ang kayang mag online na mga parents at mga bata,” she further explained, adding that smartphones will also be used to transmit lessons.

As for students who do not have access to smartphones, Briones also said that they will explore the use of the television and radio to ensure the continuing learning of the students amid the quarantine protocols currently in place in many parts of the country.

Next week, Briones will be meeting officials of the Presidential Communications Operations Office to discuss how government-run television and radio stations may be utilized as alternative platforms to deliver lessons. This is in response to Go’s earlier call for DepEd and educational institutions to explore possible online or distance learning programs for students to be able to continue their studies without putting them at harm or adding burden to them and their families as government continues to fight the disease outbreak.

Meanwhile, Go also asked Commission on Higher Education Dr. J. Prospero de Vera III about the measures to be implemented by the government so that alternative modes of learning do not cause unnecessary stress to the families of the students in the tertiary level.

“Hindi naman po pwedeng tumigil ang kanilang pag-aaral,” Go previously said, adding that “schools must also prepare their facilities and lay down protocols in preparation for the possible scenarios that students, teachers and education personnel will face when classes resume.”

De Vera responded, saying that they are also advising the use of flexible learning, which is a system of learning that uses both online and offline modes.

“Ang objective ng flexible learning ay ma-decongest ang klase para hindi lahat ng estudyante papasok. Hindi ibig sabihin nito na wala nang papasok sa school pero babawasan ang kailangang pumasok sa eskwelahan para pwedeng mag-social distancing, babawasan ang large gatherings, et cetera,” he replied.

“So, hindi ito necessarily online lahat. ‘Yung mga eskwelahan na kaya nilang online, tuloy pa rin sila mag-online,” de Vera added.

De Vera also mentioned that the CHEd has an ongoing project with Silliman University, for example, to design a learning management system which does not need internet connection to work. It is a software where teachers, students and schools can conduct learning remotely.

De Vera also clarified that not all learning will happen virtually, since there are students who do not have access to the internet.

“‘Yung mga kaya talagang mag-online, pwede silang mag-online most of the time. ‘Yung talagang walang internet connection, ‘yun ang magre-regular residential class,” de Vera said.

“Ang naging problema kasi nung sinabing flexible, ang intindi ng iba eh online lahat. Hindi ho ‘yun ang itinutulak ng CHEd. Depende po yan sa internet connectivity,” he added.

Noting the fact the some higher educational institutions have been used as quarantine isolation areas, Go also sought the assurance of concerned government agencies to ensure the safety of the students.

“There are fears that students will be dangerously exposed kapag pinapasok na sila habang ginagamit ang kanilang mga eskwelahan as quarantine facility. Kindly check that also,” Go mentioned.

Ending his questioning, Go then thanked the officials of the Executive department for their continuing service to the country in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“Salamat sa lahat po ng nasa Executive. Salamat po sa inyong serbisyo sa bayan. Labanan natin ito para malagpasan natin (bilang isang nagkakaisang bansa),” he ended.

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