MANILA, Oct. 4 (Reuters) – A group of 13 leading organizations urged the government to cooperate in an investigation into an alleged misuse of pandemic funds in the Philippines, challenging President Rodrigo Duterte’s order for ministers not to respond to a summons for a Senate inquiry.
The call for compliance from groups, including academic, business and religious organizations, is the strongest and broadest to date on the alleged foul play in the government’s handling of $ 1.3 billion in funds .
“We call on all parties to continue and cooperate with this investigation to the fullest extent permitted by law,” the statement said.
“We call on legislators, members of the executive, constitutional committees and, if summoned, members of the judiciary to conduct their work with integrity, transparency and respect, and in accordance with our established laws and procedures. “, he added. added.
The investigation follows the state auditor’s report of “deficiencies” in the way supply contracts were handled, alleging corruption due to overvalued agreements, among other irregularities. The funds were allocated to cover the services of health workers and medical supplies.
Duterte last month ordered cabinet members to seek his consent before appearing for Senate hearings. His government has denied the misuse of the funds.
“There is no evidence of price overvaluation or money lost to corruption,” Duterte said Monday evening in a speech, and told senators not to use the investigation “as a hunt. witches for the benefit of the elections “.
He said he was not opposed to the Senate investigation but disapproved of how the public inquiries, which last for hours, have interfered with the work of cabinet members required to attend, including those linked to the response to the pandemic.
The Philippines has recorded more than 2.6 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 38,800 deaths, and is one of the worst-affected countries in Asia in terms of casualties and economic losses.
The group’s call for a transparent investigation comes at a sensitive time for the Duterte administration, days before a window has closed for many of its allies to register for next year’s election.
Duterte, 76, who was elected on a promise to completely eliminate corruption, cannot run for a second term and was due to run for vice-president next year.
But this weekend, he said he would retire from politics, days after an opinion poll of the preferred vice presidential candidates showed him slipping to second place.
Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; edited by Martin Petty and Mark Heinrich
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