SENATOR VS SENATOR. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV arrives at the Office of the Ombudsman to file a plunder complaint against fellow senator Richard Gordon on November 8, 2017. Photo by Lian Buan/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Antonio Trillanes IV filed a plunder complaint against Senator Richard Gordon on Wednesday, November 8, before the Office of the Ombudsman over anomalies in the P193-million worth of pork barrel allocated to the Philippine Red Cross.
Trillanes’ 22-page complaint accuses Gordon of committing plunder, graft, malversation, ethical violation and violation of Section 14, Article VI of the Constitution.
Trillanes also rehashed the accusation that Gordon used Red Cross funds for the latter’s presidential campaign in 2010 and senatorial campaign in 2013.
Trillanes cited different internal investigations within the Red Cross which were terminated, and which led to the firing of two officials who pushed for the probes.
Gordon served as senator from 2004 to 2010. He also served as the Red Cross chairman at the same time throughout those years. He remains the chairman now, a position he has held on to without gaps since 2004.
Citing a 2012 report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), Trillanes said that from 2004 to 2010, Gordon allocated P193 million worth of his pork barrel as senator to the Red Cross.
This, Trillanes said, violates the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Government Officials and Section 14, Article VI of the Constitution, both of which prohibit members of Congress from having interests in any transactions that involve their office.
From the pork-sourced funds that the Red Cross received during that period, almost all came from Gordon. Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, also a senator at that time, allocated P1.5 million in 2004.
When interviewed by PCIJ in 2012, Gordon said that if there was any conflict of interest, he would be “on the losing end” because he’s only a volunteer of the Red Cross.
Rappler is still trying to obtain comment from Gordon’s office as of posting.
Red Cross funds for election campaign?
Trillanes rehashed earlier reports that P200 million worth of Red Cross funds were disbursed by then Secretary General Gwendolyn Pang without the approval of the Board of Governors.
The accusations then came in the form of an anonymous email with attached receipts that purportedly showed the funds were spent to buy plastic whistles, karaokes, baller IDs with Gordon’s name on them, and media placements, all being linked to Gordon’s campaigns in 2010 and 2013.
Trillanes said that then Red Cross Governor Jan Elvest Bo admitted to sending the email if only to trigger an internal investigation.
Bo would eventually be fired from Red Cross and Pang would be absolved. Trillanes said the panel that did the investigation was composed of governors handpicked by Gordon.
Another investigation ensued in 2013 led by then Red Cross chief accountant Jeric Sian. Sian recommended further audit to be conducted by an outside independent firm.
Trillanes said nothing happened to that investigatoon and Sian was eventually removed as accountant of Red Cross “through legal maneuverings.”
Trillanes wants the Ombudsman to investigate whether the P200 million was indeed used to fund Gordon’s campaign. He also wants the Ombudsman to find out whether part of the P200 million came from Gordon’s pork barrel.
Then he wants the Ombudsman to establish a conspiracy between Pang and Gordon. All that plus the threshold of P50 million would amount to plunder, Trillanes said.
“The existence of a conspiracy between respondents Gordon and Pang in the commission of the violations subject of this Complaint is shown by their concurrence of wills and unity to action and purpose, with respondent Pang entering into the anomalous transactions for the benefit of respondent Gordon, and respondent Gordon acting to cover up and/or gloss over the transgressions of respondent Pang, thus, showing a tacit, spontaneous coordination between them,” Trillanes said.
Trillanes also cited the PCIJ report in saying that as of 2012, the Red Cross had P90 million worth in outstanding unliquidated cash advances from pork barrel.
“Under the circumstances, even if assuming for the sake of argument that only PhP90 million of the public funds allocated by Sen. Gordon from his own Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for the ultimate use of the Philippine Red Cross cannot be accounted for, and/or was ultimately used by Ms. Pang for the campaign of Sen. Gordon, the said amount of unliquidated PDAF would still qualify and meet the threshold,” Trillanes said in his complaint.
Trillanes, citing Sian’s recommendation report, also said that some of the questionable projects did not undergo public bidding.
Those alone are grounds for graft, Trillanes said.
Trillanes also said he would submit letters to the Commission on Audit and the International Federation of the Red Cross, requesting both to conduct separate audits on the Philippine Red Cross.
“Ito na ngayon ang ilalabas ko sa mga colleagues ko sa Senado that we would have a chairman ng blue ribbon committee na tasked primarily to investigate acts of corruption by public officials, pero siya mismo ay may plunder at kung anu-ano pang mga anomalous na nagawa,” he added.
(I will reveal this to my colleagues at the Senate, that we would have a chairman of the blue ribbom committee tasked primarily to investigate acts of corruption by public officials, but he himself committed plunder and other anomalous acts.)
The disgreements between Trillanes and Gordon turned from just a word war to a serious feud when they filed ethics complaints against each other. This was all set off by Gordon's blue ribbon committee investigation into the P6.4 billion shabu shipment that tagged Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte.
Gordon fought hard to shield Paolo Duterte from being summoned to the Senate investigation citing lack of evidence, for which Trillanes called the committee a "committee de absuwelto." Gordon is poised to clear Duterte in the issue, and will instead order a lifestyle check on the presidential son, according to a draft report. –Rappler.com