MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte continued his attack on Sen. Richard Gordon, who is leading a Senate probe into government's pandemic deals, this time saying the lawmaker should step down from the Philippine Red Cross.
Duterte said a law mandates the PRC to submit annual reports on its finances to the president, its honorary chairman. He said Gordon, chairman and CEO of the humanitarian organization, failed to do this.
"Boy scout pa ako noon, Red Cross na ‘yan siya… Ikaw Gordon, mahilig ka mag-imbestiga ng anomalya, katiwalian, pero pagdating sa iyong Red Cross na hinawakan mo parang propriedad mo, for the longest time, hindi ka na natanggal d'yan," Duterte said in a taped national address that aired on Wednesday.
(He has been with the Red Cross ever since I was a boy scout. Gordon, you are fond of investigating anomalies, corruption, but when it comes to the Red Cross, you've hold on to it like it is your property for the longest time.)
"Dapat palitan ka na, pero kontrolado mo kasi. Napapaiyak tuloy ako sa ‘yo, sandali," he added, wiping his nose.
(You should be replaced, but you control it. I am tearing up because of you.)
Gordon has chaired PRC since 2004, and by then Duterte was already 59 years old.
COLLEAGUE VOUCHES FOR GORDON
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who is part of the PRC Board of Governors, said on Tuesday its officers are elected every 2 years.
"Hindi ko ho nakikita na dapat po siyang (Gordon) mag-step down personally dahil unang-una, noong tumama po iyong COVID at wala ho tayong testing capacity, ang Red Cross ang unang-unang nagtayo ng testing capacity dito sa ating bansa," Gatchalian said in a televised public briefing.
(I do not see why he should step down, personally, because first of all, when COVID hit and we did not have testing capacity, the Red Cross built the first here in our country.)
He said the PRC accounted for almost 90 percent of the country's coronavirus testing capacity last year.
"I have to give credit where credit is due and si Chairman Gordon po ang nanguna (led that)," Gatchalian added.
Gordon chairs the Senate Blue Ribbon committee that is looking into the government's pandemic transactions, including the procurement of allegedly overpriced anti-virus masks and face shields, which Duterte and his aides denied.
Last week, Duterte criticized Gordon's weight and hairdo, and said the lawmaker was depriving officials of the opportunity to explain the transactions properly during hearings.
The President also said he wanted the Commission on Audit (COA) to scrutinize the PRC's finances. This is not among COA's mandates.
"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 during a House hearing on Friday.
Duterte also accused Gordon of using the organization to advance his political career. The senator has expressed intent to seek the presidency, potentially becoming an opponent of the standard bearer of the Duterte faction of ruling party PDP-Laban.
The PRC on Friday said it "merely stepped up" when authorities failed to address the need for COVID-19 testing, which it said "should be the job of government."
The PRC added it "allowed their finances to bleed from operational expenses and supplies related to testing" because the government failed to settle its ballooning debt.
Gordon on Wednesday said Duterte was "covering his tracks [and] trying to protect his people" with his tirades.