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Politics, Red Cross don’t mix

Names in the Philippine National Red Cross leadership do not speak well when it comes to independence and impartiality.



As the body overseeing a recognized global humanitarian organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) should check the possibility its Philippine chapter is deeply involved in local politics and in serving as a possible conduit in agenda related to the elections next year.

The ICRC in its mission statement underlined its being a neutral and independent organization. While the National Societies, represented in the country by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), are autonomous and have their own legal identities, they represent the principles of the global movement.

Names in the Philippine National Red Cross leadership do not speak well when it comes to independence and impartiality.

Among the executives in its Board of Governors are Senators Richard Gordon and Juan Miguel Zubiri, and political gadfly lawyer Lorna Kapunan. A member of the board is Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.

While the board boasts of other impressive names that give credence to PRC’s role as an auxiliary to government social work, there should be a lot of worry when politicians hold the guiding light in the organization.

The most recent statement of President Rodrigo Duterte that the PRC flouts the law by not granting a 20-percent discount on senior citizens and persons with disabilities on the administering of more than four million reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests reveals its veneer character.

PRC Covid-19 tests account for about 25 percent of the total conducted in the country since the pandemic erupted.

Presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said “taken in context with the more than four million RT-PCR tests that the PRC has conducted and multiplied by the price that it was offered, which was at one point P4,000 each, it appeared that the PRC may have well bagged billions of pesos in profits, in clear and apparent contravention of the law.”

It will not take time for PRC to be made accountable. According to senior citizen lawyer advocate Romulo Macalintal, all it takes now is for an offended party, an elderly Filipino, to file a

“Somebody should file a complaint, or the President himself, as a senior citizen, goes to PRC and seeks a discount. Discounts should have been given,” Macalintal noted. The complaint will take the place of an investigation, Macalintal indicated.

“If the PRC actually denied them of the discounts, it should refund those who have failed to avail of them, especially now that we are in a pandemic.”

Hard to reconcile with regards to the institution is its pursuit of profit while professing humanitarianism. Before the senators took over its operations, the PRC exudes honor and genuine charity.

Under the politicians, the mission turned into a body that sucks instead of soliciting blood.