President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the government’s lead counsel to formally request the Commission on Audit (COA) to “immediately” scrutinize the use of public funds received by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).
Duterte issued the directive to Solicitor General Jose Calida during his pre-recorded address which aired Thursday, as he lambasted once again the non-governmental organization chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, who earned his ire for leading a Senate inquiry into the administration’s controversial purchase of medical supplies.
“I am ordering SolGen Calida to write COA chairperson [Michael] Aguinaldo a letter asking Aguinaldo to immediately conduct an audit on the Red Cross,” he said.
“The next step would really be the letter to be delivered to the COA by Solicitor General Calida regarding my request to audit the Red Cross,” the President added.
He also questioned Gordon and the PRC for supposedly collecting fees for blood donations the organization had collected from volunteers.
“May I remind the good Senator that his corruption involves lives there. As a matter of fact, your capital is blood. You have no shame,” Duterte said, addressing the lawmaker.
“You know what? You like doing bloodletting activities. One battalion of policemen. One Army battalion. But the people have to pay if they need it,” he added.
His latest remarks came days after he had vowed to dive into a “long, legal battle” to demand copies of the PRC’s financial statements, saying he would stop government transactions with the organization if it refuses to undergo a state audit.
Duterte and his spokesmen have been insisting that the PRC should be audited by the COA since it has entered into government deals and received public funds, including the conduct of Covid-19 tests, the costs of which has been shouldered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.
COA chairman Michael Aguinaldo earlier said the commission has no jurisdiction over the humanitarian organization since it is not a government agency.
However, he said state auditors may look into the payments made by the state-run insurer to the PRC for running Covid-19 tests.
At press time, the senator and the PRC have yet to respond to Duterte’s latest remarks.
But in previous weeks, the organization’s board of governors denied that it had received funds from the government.
It said that some government agencies such as the Department of Health, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, had donated to the PRC but these were just a “small part” of the organization’s funds.
The board added that the PRC is audited by a private and international accounting firm, which did not find anomalies with the organization’s handling of funds from numerous donors.
For his part, Gordon previously said Duterte was “covering his tracks [and] trying to protect his people” with his tirades.