LAPU-LAPU CITY, Philippines – Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II does not have time to answer the latest accusation of his "number one fan," rival candidate Rodrigo Duterte, about him misusing or misplacing funds meant for Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) rehabilitation.
"Hay, nako, wala akong panahon para sa aking number one fan (Please, I don't have time for my number one fan)," Roxas said on Thursday, March 3, on the sidelines of a visit to shipbuilders in Lapu-Lapu City.
Roxas was asked to respond to Davao Mayor Duterte's challenge for him to explain where billions of pesos in funds – mostly from foreign donors – went. (Check out Rappler's Yolanda page here.)
Roxas was secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government at the time of the disaster that killed more than 6,000 people, mostly in Eastern Visayas. In February, some residents of Roxas' home city in Capiz told presidential candidate Grace Poe that most of them had not received enough support from government.
Miles away in Manila, Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr was asked to comment on the same allegation.
In a briefing with reporters, Coloma said: "According to the records of the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub, the Philippines received a total of $386.2 million in foreign aid, 86% of which or $330.8 million were received by non-governmental organizations, multilateral agencies, and others. Out of the total amount, about $26.9 million in cash and $28.5 million in non-cash donations were received by the national government."
Coloma said, "All foreign aid received by the country for the benefit of the communities affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda are fully accounted for and have undergone the requisite audit by the Commission on Audit."
The data cited by the Palace spokesman comes from government records, which are also posted on the official Gazette.
Duterte's challenge to Roxas is the latest in a string of shots exchanged between the two presidential candidates. The Davao City mayor once challenged Roxas to a slap fight, which Roxas elevated to a fist fight challenge, until Duterte egged him on to a gun duel.
The December 2015 word war eventually ended, but the two candidates – close friends in the past – have been at odds ever since.
Roxas and his running mate Leni Robredo are in the vote-rich province of Cebu for a series of sorties from Thursday to Friday. – Rappler.com