After Duterte comment, COA chair says Red Cross beyond their jurisdiction

RG Cruz, BS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 03 2021 06:37 PM

Philippine Red Cross mobile vaccine clinic. Handout
Philippine Red Cross mobile vaccine clinic. Handout

MANILA — The Commission on Audit (COA) has no authority to audit the Philippine Red Cross, which is a non-government humanitarian organization, its chief said Friday. 

This, after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the agency to probe the NGO's finances after its chairman, Sen. Richard Gordon launched a Senate investigation on the government's dubious pandemic supply deals. 

"Yes we confirm we do not have the jurisdiction to audit the organization. The only thing we can audit are payments by Philhealth to the Red Cross but in that case what we’re auditing actually is Philhealth in making those payments," COA chairman Michael Aguinaldo told lawmakers Friday during a House hearing. 

Duterte on Thursday lashed out at Gordon for spearheading a Senate investigation into the alleged overpriced medical equipment bought by the government in 2020. 

The probe is focused on the government's purchase of billions-worth of pandemic equipment from a company ran by alleged fugitives in Taiwan who supposedly have links to the President's former adviser.

COA SAYS WORK CONTINUES

Meanwhile, in the same hearing, COA said Duterte's tirades against them would not affect how they carry out their mandate. 

"Committed naman po ang Commission on Audit to continue the work that we're doing. Sa atin naman po it's strictly work, no hidden agenda or anything... Sometimes there are some reactions that maybe warranted, maybe not warranted pero wala na po kasing control ang ating auditors doon," Aguinaldo said. 

"As long as they continue to act responsibly and fairly, fully committed po ang COA to continue the work that we are Constitutionally mandated," he added. 

Duterte has repeatedly criticized COA over its findings of "deficiency" on how the Department of Health handled over P60 billion of its pandemic budget last year. 

COA is asking Congress for a P14.46 billion budget for 2022, an increase of P396.33 million from its 2021 allocation.