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De Lima wants Gordon probed on COVID-19 testing deal between Red Cross, PhilHealth

Senator Leila De Lima said Friday the supposed conflict of interest when Senator and Philippine Red Cross (PRC) chairperson Richard Gordon entered a deal with PhilHealth for COVID-19 testing warrants a full investigation.

"Sen. Gordon, in his capacity as Blue Ribbon Committee chair, is still investigating PhilHealth when the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between PRC and PhilHealth was negotiated and signed. Sen. Gordon himself signed the MOA. That is a clear conflict of interest," De Lima said in a statement.

“The allegations (of impropriety), prima facie, are serious enough to warrant a separate full-blown investigation on the precise nature of the transaction between PRC and PhilHealth,” she added.

De Lima also underscored that PhilHealth, as a government-owned and controlled corporation, cannot make advance payments because it is contrary to an existing law.

"Yet, it was included in the MOA. In fact, P100 million was paid upfront upon execution of the MOA," she said.

"The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act did not repeal or suspend the provisions of the State Auditing Code which prohibits payment of advances without prior approval of the President," she added.

Under the first Bayanihan law, the state was allowed to "partner with the Philippine Red Cross, as the primary humanitarian agency that is auxiliary to the government in giving aid to the people, subject to reimbursement, in distribution of goods and service incidental in the fight against COVID-19."

It cannot be argued that the basis for the advance payment of P100 million to the PRC was the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM), according to De Lima.

Further, the opposition senator said Gordon's recent report regarding the Blue Ribbon's investigation on the state health insurer last year "suspiciously left out the national leadership of PhilHealth, led by its former Chair and CEO Ricardo Morales."

"These PhilHealth officials are the very same officials with whom the PRC negotiated the MOA. Mr. Morales and his fellow officers are now facing administrative and criminal charges recommended by Task Force PhilHealth and approved by no less than Pres. Duterte," she said.

Gordon recently released a chairman's report on the Blue Ribbon Committee's investigation on the state health insurer in 2019.

The said report implicated former Health Secretary Janette Garin and PhilHealth regional vice presidents, among others, in alleged irregularities but Gordon deferred discussing it in plenary to give way to the Senate Committee of the Whole's separate findings from a more recent investigation.

Last month, former PhilHealth anti-fraud officer and whistleblower Atty. Thorrson Montes Keith dragged Gordon's name in the supposed anomalous deal between the state insurer and the PRC.

De Lima said the MOA between the PRC and PhilHealth must be carefully examined to see whether its alleged questionable provisions are repeated in other agreements entered into by the state insurer.

GMA News Online sought comment from Gordon regarding the allegations but has yet to receive a response as of posting time.—AOL, GMA News