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Red Cross asserts COVID-19 testing deal with PhilHealth legal


The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) on Monday denied allegations that its agreement with the PhilHealth for COVID-19 testing in the country is marred with irregularity and conflict of interest.

In a statement released by its Board of Governors, the humanitarian organization assured that all transactions between the PRC and PhilHealth were legal.

Citing a provision of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the PRC said its memorandum of agreement with the state health insurer was exempted from the Government Procurement Reform Act.

"Under the law, TEST KITS… are included. The law further qualifies that the Department of Health shall prioritize the allocation and distribution of such goods, supplies, etc. to 'public and private laboratories that have existing capacities to test suspected COVID-19 patients," it said.

It added that the Bayanihan 1 does not expressly exclude "advance/mobilization fees which is actually a revolving fund."

"The advance payment happened only once and after that, it was already the PRC which has been advancing the tests in spite of PhilHealth’s unsettled obligations to PRC, which is now more than P500 million," the PRC said.

There was no mention of the interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM) in the memorandum of agreement with PhilHealth, it added.

The organization released the statement in response to Senator Leila De Lima's recent call for a full-blown investigation on the deal between the PRC and PhilHealth for alleged "conflict of interest."

The PRC denied that there was conflict of interest when its chairperson Senator Richard Gordon entered the deal with PhilHealth in May this year.

De Lima earlier found it suspicious why Gordon, who investigated PhilHealth in 2019 through the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, did not implicate national officials of the state health insurer such as its former head Ricardo Morales.

"The subject of his investigation in 2019 was not even Gen. Ricardo Morales, but former DOH Secretary Janette Garin for her alleged role in the anomalous diversion of P10.5 billion from mandatory senior citizens’ free PhilHealth coverage to municipal health centers which to this day remain unfinished," the PRC said.

The Committee of the Whole, not Gordon, led the investigation on the latest issues involving Morales, it added.

It also said Gordon has been a volunteer of the PRC since 1967 and "has never received any benefits nor dividends" from the PRC.

Further, the PRC stressed that it is the government that approached it for help because of its speed and capacity to conduct COVID-19 tests.

The organization claims that to date, it has already conducted 850,000 tests and established 21 facilities all over the country.

"We in the Board of Governors take umbrage at the baseless attacks against Sen. Gordon and the PRC," it said.

"The vicious attacks against Chairman Gordon and the PRC only serves to erode its credibility and destroy its reputation which will serve to hamper its
efforts to continue serving the most vulnerable during disasters. They will not succeed," it added.

It was former PhilHealth anti-fraud officer and whistleblower Atty. Thorrson Montes Keith who first dragged Gordon's name in the supposed anomalous deal between the state insurer and the PRC last month.—LDF, GMA News