MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday lashed out at Senator Richard Gordon, accusing him of using his position at the Philippine Red Cross for his political career.
Gordon is the chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, which is looking into government transactions including those of the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
Duterte accused Gordon of using the Philippine Red Cross, nongovernment humanitarian organization, for his political career as the latter is allegedly eyeing the vice presidency.
"Are you really investigating in aid of legislation, or in aid of your personal political interests? I heard that you want to run for vice president next year and you are trying to impress the opposition that they would consider you. Totoo ba ito Secretary (sic) Gordon?" he said in a recorded public address aired Thursday night.
"Alam mo, tatakbo din ako. Kung mag-usap lang tayo, puwede namang ikaw ang maging vice president, kung karapat-dapat ka," Duterte added.
(You know, I'm also running [for vice president]. If we just talk, it's possible for you to be the vice president instead, if you are worthy.)
"Alam mo (Sen. Richard Gordon) ginagamit mo itong Red Cross and I dare say na ginamit mo talaga ito para sa eleksyon. Ito 'yung milking cow mo eh sa totoo lang," Duterte said. "You have been there for quite a time. Is it not fair to say now na bumitaw ka na and give others a chance at para mahinto na 'yung ginagawa mong kalokohan?"
Duterte claimed it is unethical for Gordon to be a senator while also serving as the chairman and chief executive officer of the nongovernment PRC.
"If Red Cross is also a government agency, tapos member ka ng Congress, tumatakbo ka rin, at nanalo ka, and you're holding the Red Cross, you are the top honcho there and being a senator at the same time, eh medyo malabo yata ang ginagawa mo," Duterte claimed.
(If Red Cross is also a government agency, and you are a member of Congress, you ran for office and you won, and you're holding the Red Cross, you are the top honcho there and being a senator at the same time, what you're doing seems off.)
"Paki-clear lang nito of you holding two government positions," Duterte added.
(Please clarify this, you holding two government positions.)
The Philippine Red Cross, however, is a non-government humanitarian organization that does not have government assets and does not receive appropriation from Philippine Congress, according to a Supreme Court en banc ruling in 2009.
The same Supreme Court decision also said that the PRC "cannot be owned or controlled by the government. Indeed, the Philippine government does not own the PNRC."
According to Republic Act 10072, or the Philippine Red Cross Act of 2009, the PRC "be recognized as the voluntary, independent and autonomous nongovernmental society auxiliary to the authorities of the Republic of the Philippines in the humanitarian field."
The same law also provides that the PRC is tasked to help the government in the humanitarian field, such as "prevention of disease, the promotion of health and the mitigation of human suffering."
Duterte also blasted Gordon for threatening to stop testing during the early months of the pandemic, as the government failed to pay its P1.1 billion debt to the humanitarian group.
"When the government was struggling to source funds, you threatened to stop testing," he said.
"Alam mo ginagamit itong Red Cross, and I dare say, ginamit mo talaga ito sa elections," Duterte alleged.
(You know you are using the Red Cross, and I dare say, you are using it in elections.)
Earlier this month, Gordon said the government owes the PRC at least P550 million.
He has yet to respond to Duterte's allegations, as of posting.