PACC exec wants NBI to go after Robredo for 'competing' with government's COVID-19 response

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Vice President Leni Robredo (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 2) — An official from Malacañang's anti-corruption body wants the National Bureau of Investigation to probe Vice President Leni Robredo for allegedly competing with the national government's response to COVID-19 outbreak.

In a statement, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission Commissioner Manuelito Luna said Robredo may have violated certain laws when she received donations to help those most affected by the crisis through "illegal solicitations (and) actions that compete with or calculated to undermine, national government efforts" to mitigate the impact of the health crisis.

The PACC official questioned the Office of the Vice President’s free shuttle service and dormitory for health workers, as well as donations of personal protective equipment to various hospitals.

Luna said Robredo should leave it up to the government agencies to do the work.

"Being a part of the national government, Robredo is barred from competing with the DOH (Department of Health), DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and OCD/NDRRMC (Office of Civil Defense), or undermining their efforts, and from soliciting donations, in cash or in kind, from the taxpaying public, especially since funds have already been appropriated or set aside for relief assistance, disaster mitigation, rehabilitation, etc.," he said.

READ: Funds for trolls should be used to provide protective gear for COVID-19 frontliners — VP

Luna also said Robredo may have breached certain provisions of the law and implementing rules that created the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, the Solicitation Permit Law and related issuances, as well as measures and protocols approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases which directs the state's COVID-19 response.

However, fellow PACC member Greco Belgica said Luna's statement was not the body's position, clarifying that it was just a personal opinion.

"PACC is not asking anyone to investigate VP Leni Robredo," Belgica said in a Facebook post, even expressing gratitude for her efforts.

"This is not the time for politicking, he added. "We are not concerned with any personality. Our main concern is to make sure all the needy Filipinos get all the help they need the President promised. Our concern is to end this COVID-19 virus."

The Vice President chided the multiple attempts that question her authority. Robredo tweeted a short clip of her doing a hair flip, saying she's busy with work to waste time for such a complaint.

Robredo’s spokesman Barry Gutierrez dismissed Luna’s statement as "ridiculous" and "out of touch," noting that the Vice President is just trying to help without requesting for additional funds or seeking expanded powers.

“She did this because she saw a need, and she took action to meet it," Gutierrez said in a statement. "She did this because it was the right and responsible thing to do."

As of Wednesday evening, the Office of the Vice President said it has received over ₱40.3 million in donations for frontliners and turned over 33,075 sets of protective gear to hospital personnel in Luzon and Samar. Dormitories have also been set up for hospital staff as public transport has been suspended during the month-long Luzon quarantine.

On Wednesday, netizens were enraged after the NBI summoned Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto to explain why he supposedly violated the public transport ban during the quarantine period. Authorities alleged that Sotto violated the days-old Bayanihan to Heal as One Act even if the issue on allowing tricycle operations in his city was addressed prior to the passage of the new law.

Several senators cried foul over the PACC official's suggestion, saying it's not the time to be divisive.

"'Di ba bayanihan nga? Walang monopolyo sa pagtulong," opposition Senator Kiko Pangilinan said. "Hindi nakikipag-contest si VP Leni. Pinupunan niya ang mga pagkukulang ng pamahalaan."

[Translation: Isn't it time for cooperation? There shouldn't be a monopoly as to who can help. VP Leni isn't engaging in a contest, she is filling the gaps.]

Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson also slammed Luna's request.

CNN Philippines' Multi-Platform News Writer Melissa Luz Lopez contributed to this report.