Sen. Richard Gordon’s lawyer on Tuesday said the alleged P141 million in disallowed expenses of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority from 1993 to 1996 had been “lawfully spent and accounted for,” refuting President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim.

Duterte in his latest “Talk to the People”’address said the Commission on Audit had instructed SBMA Chairwoman Wilma Eisma to immediately cause the collection of the P146.8 million liability of various SBMA officials, including Gordon, whose liability allegedly amounted to roughly P86 million.

Gordon’s lawyer Anacleto Diaz said the order for the collection of settlement for the P140.7 million, representing disallowed expenses charged to former SBMA officials, could not be demanded “due to lack of factual, legal and equitable grounds.”

Citing Commission on Audit Circular 94-001, Diaz said that Gordon was not an accountable officer whose duty permitted or required him to have possession and custody of SBMA’s funds or property.

He said the amount was spent to transform the Subic US naval base into an investment hub.

Diaz said the conversion included spending money for the procurement of the investment hub’s network and telecommunications equipment, the payroll of thousands of employees, and the payment for the Balikatan volunteers’ meals in compliance with the SBMA’s mandate.

“The details of these purchases, including the payments to the US Treasury, show beyond doubt that the sums claimed in the demand were not pocketed by Senator Gordon and other officials of SBMA; most of them are still there being used for SBMA purposes and for everyone to see,” Diaz said.

He added that “[t]he disallowed amount served as the precursor to SBMA’s premier status as a catalyst of economic growth, employment opportunities and preferred hub for local-foreign direct investments, which benefited not just the SBMA, but also the residents of the Bataan-Olongapo-Zambales area.” John Ezekiel J. Hirro