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COVID-19 testing deal between Red Cross, PhilHealth legal, says NTF

The contract between the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) for COVID-19 testing is legal, National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) deputy implementer and testing czar Vince Dizon said Wednesday.

During a virtual press conference, Dizon said that all transactions between the two agencies were not affected by irregularities.

“Ang kontrata ng Philippine Red Cross at PhilHealth ay legal sa aming opinyon at walang kahit anong anomalya,” he said.

“Base sa patakaran at mga requirements ng PhilHealth at [Department of Health], nagkaroon po ng kontrata ang Red Cross, DOH at PhilHealth at naniniwala po kami at sinuportahan po namin ‘yan sa NTF dahil nga kailangang-kailangan natin ng testing capacity. Naniniwala kami na mapapaliwanag ito ng mabuti ng Red Cross, PhilHealth at DOH na ito’y completely aboveboard,” he added.

Dizon said PRC’s role in the government’s COVID-19 efforts is “very important,” as it processes 35% of the country’s reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing.

“Napakaimportante po ng role ng Red Cross. Ang buong gobyerno ay nagpapasalamat kay Senator [Richard] Gordon at mga volunteers ng Red Cross na walang tigil sa pagtatrabaho kahit na hirap na hirap sila at kahit minsa’y nababatikos pa,” he added.

Earlier, Senator Leila De Lima called for a full-blown investigation into the alleged irregularities in the multi-million agreement between PhilHealth and PRC, chaired by Gordon.

De Lima also 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."

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 Thorrson Montes Keith dragged Gordon’s name in the supposed anomalous deal between the state insurer and the PRC.

PRC, meanwhile, has denied allegations that its agreement with PhilHealth for COVID-19 testing in the country was marred with irregularity and conflict of interest.

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. — BM, GMA News