Duterte to SolGen: Order COA to look into Philippine Red Cross

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 16 2021 12:30 PM | Updated as of Sep 16 2021 02:14 PM

Duterte questions PRC blood fees, again insults Gordon's weight

President Rodrigo Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Palace on Sept. 13, 2021. King Rodriguez, Presidential Photo
President Rodrigo Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Palace on Sept. 13, 2021. King Rodriguez, Presidential Photo

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the government's lead lawyer to instruct the Commission on Audit (COA) to look into the finances of the Philippine Red Cross. 

The humanitarian organization is chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, who is leading a legislative inquiry into the Duterte government's pandemic transactions, including the procurement of allegedly overpriced anti-virus masks and face shields. 

Duterte said all his Cabinet members had nothing to do with corruption. 

"Ang mga senador, meron [corruption]. Gordon is one," he said in a taped meeting with officials that aired on Thursday.

"I am ordering the SolGen, si [Jose] Calida, to write [COA chairperson Michael] Aguinaldo a latter and ask Aguinaldo to conduct immediately an audit d’yan sa Red Cross na ‘yan," the President continued. 

(There is corruption among senators... I am ordering the SolGen, Calida, to write Aguinaldo a latter and ask Aguinaldo to conduct immediately an audit on that Red Cross.) 

Video courtesy of PTV

 
DUTERTE GOES FOR BLOOD

Duterte earlier accused Gordon of using the PRC to promote his political plans. The senator is known to be eyeing a second bid for the presidency. 

In his latest speech, Duterte questioned why the organization charges fees for blood donations it collects from volunteers. 
 
"Iyong corruption mo d’yan sa Red Cross, buhay ang nilalaro mo d’yan. As a matter [of fact], ang kapital mo nga dugo. Hindi ka na nahiya d’yan," he said, addressing Gordon. 

(Your corruption there at Red Cross, you are playing with lives there. As a matter of fact, your capital is blood. You don't even have shame.)
 
"Kung makausap ko si Dracula, ipakagat kita natutulog, kuhanin lahat ng dugo mo. Marami kang dugo, katawan mo bilog na bilog, puro dugo ‘yan," the President said of the stocky lawmaker. 

(If I can speak with Dracula, I will tell him to bite you as you sleep, get all your blood. You have a lot of blood, your body is so round, that's full of blood.)

The health department on its website says while donated blood is free, "there are significant costs associated with collecting, testing, preparing components, labeling, storing and shipping; recruiting and educating donors; and quality assurance."

"As a result, processing fees are charged to recover costs," it said. "Processing fees for individual blood components vary considerably." 

The "acceptable" maximum processing fee for blood and its components range from P700 to P1,500, said the agency. 

CAN COA LOOK INTO RED CROSS?

COA's Aguinaldo has said state auditors had no jurisdiction over the humanitarian organization as it is not a government agency. 

He said COA could only look into the state medical insurer's payments to the Red Cross for running COVID-19 tests.

Duterte earlier said COA would be committing dereliction of duty if it won't audit the Red Cross. 

The PRC, meanwhile, 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 organization added it "allowed their finances to bleed from operational expenses and supplies related to testing" because the government failed to settle its ballooning debt. 

The PRC Board of Governors, in a statement, said it does not receive any funds from the government. 

It added that the PRC is audited by a private and international accounting firm, which has spotted no anomalies with the organization's handling of funds from numerous donors.

Gordon, meanwhile, said Duterte was "covering his tracks [and] trying to protect his people" with his tirades.