02 April 2019
De Guzman to Duterte: Heads must roll if anomalies found
Include Congress, civil society, private sector in audit
Manila, Philippines – Labor Senate bet Leody de Guzman challenged President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to fire Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Economic Secretary Ernesto Pernia, and Solicitor General Jose Calida if the government’s investigation on loan agreements with China will reveal anomalies and irregularities.
“The fact that it is the administration itself which promoted and signed these deals show that the President’s men themselves are accountable for any treasonous and anti-people provisions that will be found in the agreements,” De Guzman said.
De Guzman cited the lack of transparency and onerous agreements in the Kaliwa Dam project, a “centrepiece project” of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the Philippines.
“For instance, the loan agreement for Kaliwa Dam would not have been signed without endorsement and tacit approval from Dominguez, Pernia, and Calida. If it is found to be anomalous, then these men should be fired,” De Guzman demanded.
All loan agreements require the approval of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), endorsement from the Department of Finance (DOF), and should have been reviewed by the Office of Solicitor-General (OSG) for infirmities.
Include Congress, Civil Society, Private Audit Firms
The labor leader also asked for an “unbiased audit” by expanding to audit initiative to include participants from the Senate, House of Representatives, civil society, and private audit, legal, and accountancy firms.
““There is a clear conflict of interest in the case of Calida investigating loan agreements which were approved by his office. Chances that these agreements will be whitewashed is highly probable,” De Guzman asserted.
He recalled that the Senate under former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III already expressed interest in auditing loan agreements, so they should be included in the audit initiative.
“Senate President Pimentel and (Sen. Risa) Hontiveros already filed Senate Resolution No. 253 directing the Senate committees to review foreign loans entered by the Philippine government in aid of legislation. They should be allowed to continue this initiative,” De Guzman said.
Citizen’s Debt Audit
De Guzman also recalled the “citizen’s debt audit initiative” which reviewed “illegitimate China loan agreements” during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The citizen’s debt audit initiative included De Guzman, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, former Senator Wigberto Tañada, former Representatives Barry Guitierrez, Rene Magtubo, and JV Bautista, former economic chief Sixto Roxas, and academics Randy David and Grace Jamon, among others.
“We were interested then into auditing Arroyo’s questionable agreements with the Chinese government, particularly the National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with ZTE and the Cyber Education Project deal, and other projects funded by the Chinese EXIM banks,” he explained.
De Guzman calls on citizens to “conduct their own audit initiative and submit their findings to the public and Congress” to “countercheck Calida and his colleagues who might want to use the audit as an opportunity to save themselves”.###