Duterte to Binay: ‘Prove I’m corrupt like you, Let’s both quit from RACE’

A message by Mayor Rody Duterte to VP Binay about accusation of corruption in Davao City.

All the while I thought Vice President Jejomar Binay, a seasoned and battle-scarred politician, had done his research and homework before he joined the race for the Presidency.

Obviously, he failed to read the character of one of his political opponents – Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte.

Now, he could be in for a big headache.

On Wednesday, Binay’s camp said Duterte “may be liable for technical malversation after the Commission on Audit (COA) found alleged “irregularities” in disbursements of P45.819 million out of the city’s Special Education Fund (SEF).”

Binay camp’s allegation was based on the “Audit Observations” made by the COA in 2014 where they took note of the use of the school board funds for the travel expenses of teachers and students who participated in sports events in other parts of the country.

In response to the charge, Duterte spokesman Peter Tiu Laviña said the issue was already raised and answered last year.

“Based on the information I received from the Department of Education, the questioned funds were used for the promotion of physical education programs, which is allowed under the law,” Laviña said.

Republic Act 5447, which created the SEF, said the fund shall be used to improve school facilities, print and buy books, pay salaries of teachers, grant scholarships, and promote physical education programs.

“The funds were used to send athletes and their coaches to sporting events across the country,” said Laviña. “These programs are basically designed to promote physical education programs. What’s wrong with that?”

If the spending was anomalous, cases would have been surely filed against city officials, including Duterte, Laviña pointed out.

“But unlike Binay who is saddled with corruption cases, nothing was filed against Duterte,” Laviña said.

Binay, in raising the corruption issue against Duterte over the COA report on the use of the P45-M special education fund (SEF), may have committed two major mistakes.

First, he failed to realise that the 2014 COA report on the questioned use of the P45-M SEF was actually an “Audit Observation” which seeks a justification and explanation on specific expenditures from the local government unit under audit.

“Audit Observations” are entirely different from “Audit Findings” which could be used as the basis for the filing of corruption charges, like the COA findings on the overprice of the Makati City Hall which led to the filing of plunder charges against the older Binay and his son, dismissed Makati City Mayor Junjun Binay.

Laviña was right when he said that “If the spending was anomalous, cases would have been surely filed against city officials, including Duterte.”

Second, Binay made a fatal miscalculation when he accused Duterte of corruption because this is one issue that the Davao City Mayor is very sensitive of.

Duterte takes pride of the fact that he has not been linked to any acts of corruption in his 23 years of service in Davao City, in spite of several COA observations on the city’s expenditures.

There was never any case where Duterte was accused of personally profiting from any transaction involving the city government.

Right after the Binay camp issued the claim against him, Duterte, challenged the Vice President to show proof of allegations that he had misused funds in Davao City.

“I am not Binay, I do not steal,” Duterte said, replying to Binay’s statement questioning his crusade against crime.

“If he can show proof that I stole a single centavo from Davao, he can accompany me to the Commission on Elections tomorrow and I will withdraw my candidacy,” he said.

This is one issue that Duterte would not likely let go of in the coming Presidential Debate as he is expected to take up the issue of corruption against Binay.

Expect Duterte to wage a relentless counter-attack against Binay on the issue of corruption because that is his character.

The Rody Duterte I know is a very friendly and compassionate person but do not ever commit the blunder of crossing swords with him.

He will not let go. Ask Justice Secretary Leila de Lima or his newly-reconciled political nemesis in Davao City, former House Speaker Prospero Nograles.

[By Manny Piñol]

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