Go cites 'conflict of interest' in Senate probe on PhilHealth; Gordon calls out diversionary move

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 31 2021 06:12 PM | Updated as of Aug 31 2021 09:57 PM

MANILA - Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go on Tuesday raised questions about Senate Blue Ribbon chairman Sen. Richard Gordon leading investigations concerning the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth), saying there may be conflict of interest with his role as head of the Philippine Red Cross.

In a privilege speech, Go cited how the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) had entered into a multimillion-peso agreement with PhilHealth in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Hindi ba may conflict of interest na isa sa iniimbestigahan mo ay katransaksyon ng organisasyon na pinamumunuan mo?" he said.

(Isn't there conflict of interest when the subject of your investigation has transactions with the organization you are heading?)

"In the spirit of fairness and impartiality, shouldn't the Blue Ribbon committee chair inhibit himself from further hearing all matter involving PhilHealth?" he said.

Go also slammed Gordon's earlier statements about how PhilHealth should pay the PRC in advance for the RT-PCR testing of several health workers and other government employees.

"Hindi ba disadvantageous sa gobyerno at against the law ang paghingi ng advance payment?" he asked.

(Isn't it disadvantageous to the government and isn't it against the law to ask for advance payment?)

"Pinapagalitan mo, pati ako nadadamay bakit hindi nababayaran. Ako kasamahan mo sa gobyerno, papagalitan mo kami? Ano naman kinalaman ko?" he said.

(You reprimand us, including me,on why the PRC has not been paid yet. I am your colleague in government, why would you reprimand me? What do I have to do with that?)

Go stopped short of directly asking Gordon to inhibit from Blue Ribbon investigations involving the state insurer, saying they should "save that discussion for another forum."

"I will not present any conclusions here without due process and fairness," he said.

Go has been endorsed by ruling party PDP-Laban as its standard bearer for the 2022 elections, but he has declined. Gordon is, meanwhile, seen to be eyeing a fresh presidential bid. 

Gordon responded to Go's questions by pointing out that it was the Duterte administration who sought the PRC's help at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

"Alam ninyo na nagsisilbi ang Red Cross. Hindi kami ang lumapit sa gobyerno. Ang gobyerno ang lumapit sa amin," Gordon said.

(You know that the Red Cross serves. We were not the ones who approached the government. The government approached us.)

Gordon dismissed Go's rants against him as another attempt to distract the public from the Senate Blue Ribbon investigation into the alleged misuse of COVID-19 funds.

"Ito tangkang manglansi na naman ito. Titirahin ang Senado, titirahin ako," Gordon said.

(This is another diversionary tactic. They will hit the Senate, they will hit me.)

"This Blue Ribbon will not be distracted."

The Blue Ribbon Committee recently presented a video showing President Rodrigo Duterte and Go welcoming Chinese businessman Michael Yang and Pharmally officials in Malacañang.

Last week, the Senate panel found that Pharmally— which bagged P6.8 billion in contracts from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM)— has been using fake addresses in its incorporation documents.

The panel also found that the DBM's Procurement Service bought allegedly overpriced face masks and RT-PCR test kits from the said corporation.