President Rodrigo Duterte had tasked Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo to investigate alleged irregularities committed by the previous administration in spending funds intended for victims of Super Typhoon “Yolanda,” that ravaged the country more than three years ago.
“It is still being investigated by Panelo, whatever is new,” Duterte said in a television interview when asked what he would do with officials of the previous administration, including former President Benigno Aquino III, who have been accused of misusing Yolanda funds.
Duterte, however, admitted it would be “hard to prove” officials under Aquino misused the aid funds and “difficult” to have them prosecuted.
“But it has to take you much time, if you just ponder on it. You need to get accountants and everything, including [possible] money laundering,” the President said. “[Panelo’s team is] still winding up, so if you intend to file a case, then get the lawyers of the Justice Department,” Duterte said.
“[The goal is] to build a case, to get a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. The batting average of the prosecution is 30-70 for acquittal, so just create what would it be [needed for a conviction] if you have an affidavit,” he added.
In March, then-Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma said records of the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub showed the Philippines received a total of $386.2 million in foreign aid. Non-government organizations, multilateral agencies and others received 86 percent or $330.8 million of that amount, Coloma noted.
About $26.9 million in cash and $28.5 million in non-cash donations were received by the National Government under President Aquino, Coloma added.
Duterte assigned presidential assistant Wendel Avisado to oversee the resettlement of families affected by “Yolanda” (international name Haiyan), which crushed central Philippines in 2013.
Avisado is watching over housing projects for “Yolanda” survivors, over a month after Duterte lamented the slow progress of housing assistance and shelter to the victims of the most powerful storm on Earth to hit land.
Duterte asked then-Housing Secretary and Vice President Leni Robredo and Presidential Assistant to the Visayas Michael Dino to see that Yolanda survivors were transferred to permanent shelters soon.
Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo also revealed in November that only P30 million was left from the billions in combined government and private donations.
Despite the Aquino administration’s release of P90 billion in “Yolanda” aid last year, the Department of Social Welfare and Development is now seeking additional funding to be given to 200,000 people for emergency shelter assistance (ESA), Taguiwalo added.
At least 7,000 people died during Yolanda, mostly in Leyte and Samar provinces, and damage to infrastructure and other sectors amounted to more than P89 billion.
With a comprehensive plan targeting 205,000 housing units for the typhoon victims, just one percent or 25,000 units have been completed, according to Robredo in November. She said the bureaucratic process and corruption were the main cause of delays.