MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has urged Senator Richard Gordon to open the financial records of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) for thorough scrutiny by the Commission on Audit (COA).
“Either you submit to an auditing procedure or we quarrel. ‘Pag mag-quarrel (If we quarrel), do your worse because I will do mine,” Duterte told Gordon, chair of PRC, in a pre-recorded Talk to the People delivered Friday night but aired Saturday morning.
Duterte made the call, as he vented frustrations over the series of hearings by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee led by Gordon on the government’s procurement of medical supplies amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Duterte warned that he might be forced to cut the government’s ties with PRC if Gordon rejects his call to allow the humanitarian organization to undergo a state audit.
“Ngayon, kung ayaw mo, mapipilitan akong (Now, if you don’t want it, I would be forced to) totally disassociate with you. I will stop the national government and all from having transactions with you in any manner,” he said.
Under Republic Act 10072 signed in April 2010, the PRC is acknowledged as an “independent, autonomous, nongovernment organization (NGO) auxiliary to the authorities of the Republic of the Philippines in the Humanitarian Field.”
Malacañang earlier said COA can conduct a special audit of PRC’s finances, citing Article 9 of the 1987 Constitution which provides that the state auditing body has the power to examine on a post-audit-basis all accounts pertaining to the uses of funds by PRC that is “receiving subsidy or equity, directly or indirectly, from or through the government.”
Duterte also threatened to stop funding PRC.
“Wala akong pakialam. Hindi ako magbigay ng pera sa’yo, saka 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 am on the right track,” he said.
Duterte maintained that COA can audit PRC’s spending since the organization is “receiving financial aid” from the Philippine government.
He said he would ask COA “in the coming days” to check how the PRC is spending the funds given by the national government.
“If you are operating here and you receive the money and spend it, you are accountable to the government and therefore an audit is in order,” Duterte said.
Duterte, however, acknowledged that COA earlier said it has no jurisdiction over PRC.
He, nevertheless, said he is ready for a “long, legal” battle to “persuade” COA to conduct an audit of PRC’s financial records.
“I said this will involve a long, legal battle but I am 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,” Duterte said. (PNA)