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Duterte threatens to stop all gov’t transactions with Philippine Red Cross

President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to stop all government transactions with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) as he continued to slam its chairman Senator Richard Gordon for leading the investigation into the alleged overpriced procurement of pandemic-related medical goods.

In a taped briefing aired Saturday morning, Duterte has slammed Gordon and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon over their participation in the Senate inquiry.

“Ito naman si Gordon, malalim itong away namin. Talagang mag-away kami ng buang na ‘to,” Duterte said.

(This Gordon, our conflict has deep roots. We will really go head-to-head with this fool.)

He asserted that the Commission on Audit (COA) can audit the funds that the government has given to the PRC.

“In the coming days, I will write you a letter to open up your records because… I will also request [COA chairman] Michael Aguinaldo, and I’m sure he know his business that there is money in Red Cross belonging to the government which he should look into,” Duterte said.

“Ngayon kung ayaw mo, mapipilitan akong (Now if you don't want, I will be forced to) totally disassociate with you. I will stop the national government from having transactions with you in any manner. Wala akong pakialam (I don't care). ‘Di ako nagbigay ng pera sa’yo (I will not give you money) and as far as I’m concerned, Red Cross does not exist. You can create a controversy there or a crisis. I do not mind because I said I’m on the right track. Either you submit the auditing procedure or we quarrel,” the President said.

Duterte said the PRC is required to submit an annual report to the President but so far he has not received one.

“Wala akong natanggap. Anim na taon na ako, Senator Gordon (I have not received even a single report. I am sitting as President for almost six years now, Senator Gordon). Nasaan na ang report  (Where is the report)?” Duterte asked.

The President said PRC cannot claim total independence as it receives financial aid from the government.

He cited funds from the Philippines Charity Sweepstakes Office which the PRC has reportedly received.

Aguinaldo earlier said that the COA has no jurisdiction over PRC.

The PRC governors also said last week that the humanitarian organization does not receive appropriations from the government and it only receives donations from private individuals, corporations, and partner international Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.

Thus, the funds they handle are not subject to COA’s liquidation, the PRC said.

It noted that some government agencies, such as the Department of Health, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, had donated to the PRC but these are “small part” of PRC funds and these were properly liquidated.

Furthermore, Duterte refuted the COA chairman’s opinion on auditing the humanitarian organization, saying Aguinaldo may face charges of dereliction of duty if he refuses to liquidate the government funds given to the PRC.

“If he refuses, that would be a dereliction of duty. Then I said this will involve a long legal battle but I’m prepared to go into it and demand really the accountability of Senator Gordon and all of them in the Red Cross to account for the money that was given by the government of the Philippines for the longest time,” he said.

Panelo agrees

At the latter part of the public address, presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo affirmed Duterte’s position on auditing the PRC, citing a constitutional provision on COA’s authority to liquidate non-governmental entities that receive public funds.

Panelo was apparently referring to Article IX D, Section 2(d)which states that the COA shall have the power, authority, and duty to examine, audit, and settle all accounts on “such non-governmental entities receiving subsidy or equity, directly or indirectly, from or through the Government, which are required by law or the granting institution to submit to such audit as a condition of subsidy or equity.”

He likewise asserted possible charges of dereliction of duty against Aguinaldo should the latter refuse to conduct an audit on PRC.

“Puwede po tayo mag-file ng petition for mandamus compelling COA to perform its duty to audit this non-governmental organizations like PRC, at tama ang sinasabi niyo na kapag ‘di ginawa ni Michael Aguinaldo and ng COA ang kanyang tungkulin, e dereliction of duty po iyon,” Panelo said.

(We can file a petition for mandamus compelling COA to perform its duty to audit these NGOs like PRC, and you are right that there is dereliction of duty if Michael Aguinaldo won’t do it.)

In response, Duterte said Panelo will handle this in case Gordon and Aguinaldo won’t heed their call.

“I’m sure Aguinaldo and Gordon should know where they are now. I hope they stop invoking that phrase about being independent,” Duterte ended.

GMA News Online has sought the comments of Gordon and Aguinaldo on Duterte’s remarks but they have yet to respond. —KG, GMA News