MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte wants the Commission on Audit (COA), an independent constitutional body, to look into the finances of the Philippine Red Cross, a non-government humanitarian organization.
This, after Duterte lashed out at PRC chairman Sen. Richard Gordon, and accused him of using the Red Cross for his political career.
"Gusto ko makita 'yong audit talaga na totoo ng Red Cross. And maybe I can. I will demand, the executive department will demand that we be furnished a copy of your audit taken by COA and COA to give us the copy so we can review also what you have audited at tingnan namin kung tama o hindi. Mas mabuti na 'yang gano'n," the President said during a recorded public address aired Thursday night.
(I want to see the audit documents of Red Cross. And maybe I can. I will demand, the executive department will demand that we be furnished a copy of your audit taken by COA and COA to give us the copy so we can review also what you have audited and we can see if there's something wrong. That will be better.)
"Let us be open to everybody. You open your books, and I open mine, and you can read all that is entered there, and I also examine what you have done so it will be a fair scheme for everybody," he added.
According to Republic Act 10072, or the Philippine Red Cross Act of 2009, the PRC is "recognized as the voluntary, independent and autonomous nongovernmental society auxiliary to the authorities of the Republic of the Philippines in the humanitarian field."
It is also provided in the law that the PRC should "submit to the President of the Philippines an annual report containing its activities and showing its financial condition" at the end of every calendar year.
In a circular released in 1995, the COA said it can conduct special audits on NGOs "upon request by proper authorities or as determined by the Chairman."
A quick search on the website of COA yielded no reports on the PRC so far.
The Supreme Court en banc also ruled in 2009 that the Philippine Red Cross is a non-government humanitarian organization that does not have government assets and does not receive appropriation from Philippine Congress.
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."
Last month, Duterte told the members of his Cabinet to just follow his orders and ignore the reports by the COA, after a recent report drew questions on how the Department of Health (DOH) used over P67 billion in COVID-19 funds, saying it is impossible that the money was stolen.
Gordon is the chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, which is looking into government transactions including those of the DOH, Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth), and Department of Budget and Management (DBM).