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Duterte demands probe on Philippine Red Cross

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President Rodrigo Duterte demanded the Philippine Red Cross led by Sen. Richard Gordon to submit its financial statements to the Executive branch, saying the organization should be audited by the government since it had received public funds.

The President, in his pre-recorded address which aired Wednesday, asked Gordon to heed his call for an independent audit of the organization as he assailed the lawmaker anew for probing the administration’s pandemic response supply deals.

“We need to review the government funds we have been giving you for years. Senator Gordon, I am demanding an answer,” Duterte said, speaking in a mix of English and vernacular.

“I ask for copies of the audit, so we can go over it and compare it with the copies of the audit made by the Commission on Audit (COA). After all, it’s all public documents under the law,” he added.

However, the CoA itself previously said it has no jurisdiction to audit the PRC, a non-profit humanitarian organization.

The President, meanwhile, said the audit was needed so government officials can find out whether Gordon, who has been leading the Senate blue ribbon committee’s inquiry on the use of the Covid-19 response budget, has been “faithful” to the country and the PRC.

“If the Red Cross is receiving money from the government and the Republic of the Philippines, you are subject to an audit,” he said.

Duterte noted that the organization has been receiving financial support from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, a government-owned and -controlled corporation under the Office of the President.

He cited Article 9 of the 1987 Constitution, which states that the COA has the power to examine on a post-audit basis all accounts pertaining to the expenditure or uses of funds by NGOs “receiving subsidy or equity, directly or indirectly, from or through the government.”

Gordon’s refusal to submit the PRC’s financial statements would mean that he was “afraid” that somebody may uncover his secrets, the President claimed.

“Gordon is saying [the PRC] cannot be audited. It means that he is afraid. He is afraid because he knows he has several arrears throughout the years and he cannot possibly have time to cover up everything or so,” Duterte said.

He also said the lawmaker should step down as chairman of the PRC.

Presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, who was also present during the President’s public address, also echoed Duterte’s remarks and said the COA can audit the funds received by the PRC.

He said the commission can look into the PRC’s memorandum of agreement with Metro Manila mayors for Covid-19 testing, as well as its MOA to get advance payment of P100 million from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. for providing testing services.

In his previous public address, the President had accused Gordon of using PRC funds as his “milking cow” for his electoral campaigns.

Gordon and the PRC have yet to respond to the President’s latest tirades against them at press time.

Duterte has repeatedly hurled insults against the senator since the Senate blue ribbon panel began its inquiry into the government’s controversial purchase of allegedly overpriced pandemic supplies in 2020.

No corruption

The President, along with his Cabinet officials, maintained that the Covid-19 protective suits purchased by the national government were not overpriced.

“What is this: In aid of election or in aid of legislation?” he asked lawmakers, referring to their inquiry.

“There was no corruption involved in the government procurement,” Duterte added.

The President also reiterated that senators were merely using the issue to advance their political plans in the May 2022 elections.

“All those in the blue ribbon committee, what you are doing against the administration is really politicking,” he said.

“You cannot tell the truth in the Senate. You know why? Because they will not let you complete your answer,” Duterte added.

Opposition lawmakers have questioned the government’s emergency deals to buy medical supplies from a lowly-capitalized company known as Pharmally, which was linked to Duterte’s former economic adviser, Michael Yang.

The firebrand leader remains popular in the Philippines, but his administration is facing growing criticism over its handling of one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia.

The Philippines is seeing a fresh surge in Covid-19 cases amid the detection of local cases of the highly transmissible Delta variant.

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