MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte announced Friday that he has fired an official of the presidential anti-corruption body for urging the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo for supposedly competing with the national government’s response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak.
In an address aired on state-run PTV-4 late Friday night, Duterte said Commissioner Manuelito Luna is no longer part of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).
The President made the pronouncement as he slammed Luna for being “stupid” in saying that Robredo may have violated certain laws for receiving donations to help people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Ngayon, ito naman may tao akong abugado sa PACC, Commissioner Manuelito Luna. Gusto niyang paimbestigahan si Leni kung bakit nag-solicit. Anak ka ng… Kaya ako nung narinig ko, sabi ko, ‘Fire him.’ (Now, PACC Commissioner Manuelito Luna, a lawyer, wanted Leni to be investigated for soliciting donations. Son of a… When I heard about that, I said, ‘Fire him.’) As of this moment, he is no longer connected with government,” Duterte said.
In a statement on Thursday, Luna questioned Robredo’s initiatives to provide free shuttle services and temporary lodging for health workers, as well as her donations of personal protective equipment to hospitals.
Luna claimed Robredo may have breached the law that created the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council; the Solicitation Permit Law and related issuances; and the protocols approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Duterte, however, said there was nothing wrong with Robredo’s initiatives to help his administration step up the fight against Covid-19.
He said that while he is not in good terms with Robredo, he appreciates the latter’s efforts to stop the further spread of Covid-19 in the country.
“Leni was calling the private sector na mag-tulong (to help the government). Nag-hingi siya ng tulong. Tama iyan, mag-hingi ka sa kapwa mo tao, sa mahirap (She asked for help. That is right. Ask for help for the people, especially the poor),” Duterte said.
The President noted that Robredo did not commit anything wrong.
He also threatened to order the dismissal of NBI officials, in case they heed Luna’s call to conduct an investigation against Robredo.
”Nag-ano nga ng tulong, bakit mo pa-imbestigahan? Saka yung NBI niyan, mag-imbestiga niyan, pati kayo isali ko sa dismissal. Mga ignorante kayo (She offered help, why would you have her investigated? If the NBI conducts a probe, I will dismiss them as well. You are ignorant),” Duterte said. “Itong panahon na ito na wala namang kasalanan ang vice president (The vice president did not make any mistake this time).”
On Thursday, PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica said Luna’s statement against Robredo was not the anti-corruption body’s stance but was merely his colleague’s personal opinion. (PNA)