Robredo: Wrong to use Marawi rehab funds for Hajj

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo sided with the Commission on Audit (COA) on the issue of P5 million meant for Marawi City rehabilitation which was instead spent on the Hajj pilgrimage of some evacuees in 2018.

In contrast to President Rodrigo Duterte, who had defended the spending, Robredo pointed out that public funds should only be spent on what they were authorized for.

"Tanggap natin na iyong Hajj, napakamahalagang parte ng buhay pananampalataya ng ating mga kapatid na Muslim. Pero iyong gobyerno kasi, strikto sa paggastos natin ng pera," the Vice President said on her radio show on Sunday, June 9.

(We accept that Hajj is a very important part of the faith of our Muslim brothers and sisters. But the government must be strict when it comes to the spending of funds.)

"Kung for rehabilitation, dapat gastusin siya sa rehabilitation din.... Hindi puwede na parang ipapalit-palit mo iyong items sa budget kasi iyon iyong...paraan para ma-check mo eh, kung napapapunta sa tama iyong budget," she added.

(If the money is for rehabilitation, it should be spent on rehabilitation.... You can't switch around the items in the budget because the specific allocations allow you to check if the budget is being used properly.)

Robredo said the money could have been used on permanent housing for Marawi City residents who were displaced by the months-long siege in 2017. (READ: Frustrated Marawi evacuees still can't go home 2 years after siege)

Duterte had claimed that the evacuees would prefer Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, over receiving government housing. He said COA should not seek a refund of the P5 million. (READ: Marawi residents to gov't: Unreleased donations deprive us of basic needs– Rappler.com