MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte should be able "to say what he wants to say," his spokesperson said Friday, after the Philippine Red Cross criticized the Chief Executive's accusation of greed against the group that ran about a quarter of the country's coronavirus tests.
Duterte on Thursday said "mukhang pera" or greedy, right after Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told him that the PRC had resumed its coronavirus swab tests following the government's payment of around half of its nearly P1-billion debt.
Sen. Richard Gordon, who chairs the humanitarian organization, said Friday the President "should really be careful" because his statement "is not really presidential."
"Let's allow na lang the President to say what he wants to say, and let that remain on record," said Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque.
"Bahala na po ang (it is up to the) PRC to construe what the President said," he said in a public briefing.
Under an agreement it signed with the government earlier this year, the PRC would charge P3,500 for the swabbing of frontliners and other agencies endorsed by the state health insurer PhilHealth, which would cover the cost of their COVID-19 tests.
On Oct. 27, PhilHealth made a partial payment to the PRC worth P500 million for its P1.1 billion debt. PhilHealth paid another P100 million on Thursday.
PhilHealth still owes Red Cross about P377 million, said Gordon.
The Philippines has Southeast Asia's second highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths after Indonesia.
The health department on Thursday reported 1,594 novel coronavirus infections and 42 additional deaths. The agency said total confirmed cases increased to 389,725 while deaths reached 7,409. — With a report from Reuters