EXCLUSIVE: Roxas: Charges of 'Yolanda' fund misuse 'fake news'

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Both President Benigno Aquino III and Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel Roxas II did not show up at the commemoration of the Yolanda anniversary over the weekend. An analyst believes that the Yolanda vote — equivalent to about seven to 10 million votes — can affect Roxas' candidacy.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 19) — Former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas defended himself from allegations that funds allotted for government response in the aftermath of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) were misused. He called them "fake news."

"Hindi sa akin dumaan 'yung pondo ng Yolanda. Hindi ako 'yung Finance, hindi ako 'yung Treasury. Lahat ng donasyon dumadaan 'yan kumbaga sa checkbook ng bayan, hindi kay Mar Roxas," the former senator told CNN Philippines' The Source on Monday in his first TV interview since losing in the 2016 presidential election to President Rodrigo Duterte.

[Translation: Yolanda funds did not go through me. I am not the Finance department, I am not the Treasury bureau. All donations go through the nation's checkbook, not through Mar Roxas.]

"Malinis ang pangalan ko. Maya't maya yan ang binabato sa akin. Fake news 'yan. Kasinungalingan 'yan. Walang katotohanan 'yan," he said.

[Translation: My name is clean. Every now and then, that's hurled at me. That's fake news. That's a lie. There's no truth in that.]

 

During 2016 electoral campaign, Duterte's supporters raised allegations that the funds for government response to Yolanda-hit areas in the Visayas region in 2013 were misused.

WATCH: CNN Philippines Investigates: How 'Yolanda' housing funds were spent

A February 2018 report from state-run Philippine News Agency says the government has released ₱67.1 billion for rehabilitation of areas affected by Yolanda, one of the strongest storms on record since 2013.

However, many officials noted that much of these funds have been left unutilized. For one, Senator Loren Legarda noted in 2016 that of the ₱25.6 billion allocated for housing assistance for Yolanda victims, ₱20.7 billion was left unused.

A portion of the unused funds, which should have been used for Yolanda aid, was also eyed to be realigned for the rehabilitation of Marawi, following its siege by ISIS-inspired belligerents.

But Roxas, who is running for senator in the May 2019 polls, insisted that there were no anomalies involved in the government's rebuilding of areas ravaged by the monster storm.

"Tingnan po ninyo, lahat ng COA (Commission on Audit) report na sumusubaybay sa aking tungkulin sa DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government.) Ni isa doon walang sinabing anomalya tungkol sa Yolanda," he said.

[Translation: Look at all the COA reports on my tasks in DILG. There are no mentions of anomalies about Yolanda.]

He also said that no amount of preparations would have readied the government for Yolanda, which he likened to an "atomic bomb."

However, a 2015 COA report on Yolanda noted that the "DILG has not successfully achieved full preparedness of LGUs (local government units)," noting that none of the LGUs involved attained a high level of preparedness and most had only a low level of preparedness.

The report also noted that of the ₱76 million allocated for DILG's disaster risk reduction and management activities, only 43.5 percent or around ₱33.07 million was used, and the remaining budget was left unspent.