First there was the report of P9 billion under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 that the government failed to utilize as ayuda or assistance to those adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now Sen. Manny Pacquiao has presented piles of documents that he says will prove the loss of billions to corruption across government agencies, starting with P10.4 billion in pandemic aid that was not distributed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The DSWD and Malacañang have yet to respond to the accusation.
Pacquiao, who will spend the coming weeks in the United States preparing for his Aug. 21 bout with American world welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr., is turning over the documents to the Senate Blue Ribbon committee for investigation. Over the weekend, senators expressed readiness to conduct the probe.
The government may dismiss Pacquiao’s accusations as mere politicking amid reports that the senator, whose congressional term ends in 2022 and who at age 42 is in his twilight as a boxer, is planning to run for president next year. President Duterte has scoffed at Pacquiao’s accusations and asked why the senator is raising the issues only at this time.
Anomalies in government, however, typically surface during election season. It is true that politics often fuels the accusations or disclosures, but this will not necessarily mean the charges are baseless. The public won’t mind the personal motives behind such accusations, as long as the charges turn out to be true and lead to the indictment of those who steal or misuse people’s money.
Pacquiao has hurled a serious accusation: that P50 billion in funds under the social amelioration program was allocated for payment to beneficiaries through the e-wallet app of little-known Starpay Corp., which “had a buildup capital of only P60,000.” Of P14 billion in SAP funds meant for 1.8 million beneficiaries, Pacquiao said only 500,000 people had downloaded the Starpay app.
There might be a legitimate explanation for this e-wallet deal; officials of other executive departments that Pacquiao has linked to graft have denied his charges and expressed willingness to face any probe. From the start, however, the disbursement of SAP funds has been riddled with glitches and accusations of corruption and favoritism. Filipinos are already buried in debt to finance the pandemic response. The public deserves to know if the funds are being utilized judiciously and efficiently.