MANILA – Local government officials who are misappropriating funds for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response will be slapped with criminal charges, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo issued the stern warning, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to detain public officials engaged in corruption amid Covid-19 crisis.
“Kung local official ka, immediately, suspended ka. After that, meron pang demanda. Hindi sila makakalusot kay Presidente (If you’re a local official, you will be suspended. After that, you will face charges. You can’t get away with it. The President will never let that happen),” he said in an interview with state-run Radyo Pilipinas.
In his address to the nation on Monday night, Duterte announced that his administration has allotted PHP200-billion relief assistance to some 18 million poor families affected by the implementation of enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.
Duterte also vowed to run after local officials who will embezzle, hoard or divert money, food, and other supplies intended for aid to rightful beneficiaries.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who also serves as spokesperson of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, said the national government would not tolerate any abuse of power amid the health crisis.
“Agad isususpinde ni Pangulong Duterte ang mga abusive local government officials at ide-detain po natin kung kinakailangan (The President will immediately suspend the abusive local government officials and detain them, if necessary),” Nograles said in a virtual presser aired on state-run PTV-4.
On March 24, Duterte signed Republic Act (RA) 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Health as One Act,” which grants financial assistance between PHP5,000 and PHP8,000 to 18 million low-income households affected by the community quarantine.
RA 11469 states that poor families will receive the monthly emergency subsidy for two months.
Nograles said all local government units (LGUs) should give equal treatment to their constituents, especially when they are distributing relief assistance to them.
“Well, narinig po natin yung warning ni Pangulong Duterte na huwag abusuhin ng ating mga LGU, kasama ang mga barangay kapitan, ang binigay na discretion sa kanila (we heard President Duterte’s warning that LGUs, including village captains, should not abuse the discretion given to them),” he said.
Panelo said LGUs should make sure that all affected households would receive the necessary aid from the government.
Nograles said the government is doing its best to hasten the distribution of relief assistance to families affected by the month-long community quarantine.
“This public health crisis has disrupted the lives and livelihoods of many of our countrymen, but government will exert all efforts to ensure that millions of Filipino families are taken care of,” he said.
Nograles noted that among those who will receive assistance are families with at least one member who is a senior citizen, person with disability, and pregnant or lactating woman.
Solo parents, indigenous peoples, underprivileged sector and homeless citizens are also beneficiaries of the government’s social amelioration program, Nograles said.
Nograles added that public utility vehicle drivers, workers, house helpers, vendors, people with small businesses, subminimum wage earners, and employers affected by “no work, no pay” policy would also benefit from the social amelioration program.
“In the coming days, the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) will provide details as to how deserving families will be able to receive these subsidies,” he said. (PNA)