An admission of Senator Richard Gordon that the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) was a recipient of his priority development assistance fund (PDAF), when P52 million was allocated in 2007, based on the Commission on Audit (CoA), compels the audit agency to subject the humanitarian body to a review.
Gordon, also PRC chairman, admitted in a television interview the organization had failed to submit annual financial reports to Malacañang, which is a requirement under the PRC Act of 2009, or Republic Act 10072.
In the same show, he ceded the government has the mandate to look into whatever public money PRC received, “but not contributions from other countries, such as Japan,” he qualified.
President Rodrigo Duterte during a regular address urged the CoA to look into the financial records of the PRC, telling Gordon not to obstruct a review, or “we quarrel.”
The use of the PDAF in the PRC might have been authorized, as claimed by Gordon, but the pork barrel funds, while at the discretion of legislators, going to the humanitarian agency can be questioned, since the intent of the PDAF was mainly for infrastructure and local projects.
Pork barrel fund was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC) in 2013 in the wake of the P10-billion PDAF scam.
Since the SC itself raised questions on the use of the legislators’ lump sum, the CoA should take the initiative on the doubts raised by the President himself on the transfer of public funds to the PRC.
Gordon claimed he had long ago cleared the matter, with CoA giving the green light, as well as with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, but nothing has been shown to back his statement.
Article 9 of the 1987 Constitution provided that the state auditing body has the power to examine on a post-audit basis all accounts pertaining to organizations “receiving subsidy or equity, directly or indirectly, from or through the government.”
“If you are operating here and you receive the money and spend it, you are accountable to the government, and therefore an audit is in order,” the President had said.
Questions have been raised regarding PRC’s expensive services and the demand of the supposed charitable agency for immediate refunds from government of expenses on test kits amid the pandemic.
Gordon even threatened to suspend Covid tests if the government failed to settle its arrears with the PRC.
Mr. Duterte added that even if it involves a long, legal battle, he will go through it just to demand the accountability of the Red Cross.
While the services during calamities of the PRC are truly commendable, since it is among the first responders whenever an emergency happens, it remains answerable to public scrutiny since it acts as an auxiliary of the government.
There is no argument over the crucial function of the PRC, but since it receives public funds, such as Gordon’s PDAF, it should be subjected to a state examination.