Malacañang on Monday clarified that President Rodrigo Duterte wants government funds paid to the Philippine Red Cross audited.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque was referring to President Duterte's speech last week in which the Chief Executive said the state-run Commission on Audit (COA) should audit the Red Cross amid the Senate's probe on the government's pandemic supply purchases from start-up firm Pharmally.
These purchases included personal protective equipment (PPE), face masks, among others.
"Hindi naman lahat ng pondo ng PRC (Red Cross) ay galing sa gobyerno. Hindi dapat i-subject ng audit ng COA. But insofar as tumatanggap ng PRC ng government support, kinakailangan i-audit (Not all of the Red Cross' funding comes from the government, but they receive government support that needs auditing)," Roque said.
"Halos lahat ng makina ng Red Cross ay donated. Bakit ang binayad ng PhilHealth [for each test] ay P4,000? Eh, alam naman po natin na kapag donated ang machine, dapat mas mababa sa P4,000 ang singil ng RT-PCR COVID-19 test," Roque added.
(Almost all of the Red Cross' machines for RT-PCR COVID-19 tests are donated. Why would PhilHealth be charged P4,000 for that? And we all know that if the machine was donated, the cost should be less than P4,000.)
Roque said that because of this, the Red Cross' funds are not completely out of the jurisdiction of the COA.
"Their operations involve public funds and good governance too," Roque added.
The Philippine Red Cross is chaired by Senator Richard Gordon.
Gordon is the Chairperson of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee which is probing the government's pandemic supplies purchases from Pharmally.
During the Senate investigation on Pharmally, Gordon's committee played an RTVM footage showing Chinese businessman Michael Yang and President Duterte meeting with Pharmally officials
Yang was a former presidential adviser on economic affairs.
Later, Senator Risa Hontiveros, citing records from Taiwan's Ministry of Justice website, said that Pharmally's chairman Huang Wen Lie, also known as Tony Huang, is wanted for securities fraud, stock manipulation, and embezzlement.
The same website also lists Huang's son, Huang Tzu Yen who sits as incorporator of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. and Pharmally Biological Inc., as also wanted for stock manipulation.
Roque, however, insisted that all government purchases from Pharmally were above board, of best quality, and affordable price.
"There was no downpayment given to Pharmally. They paid for transportation, taxes and were paid upon delivery," Roque said. — DVM, GMA News