THE Commission on Audit (COA) has initiated its examination of records of government funds received by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) since 2016, as the word war continues between its chairman, Sen. Richard Gordon, and President Duterte over the Senate investigation of pandemic-fund misuse.
During his public address last Monday, Duterte said he got word that COA Chairperson Michael G. Aguinaldo issued a memorandum on Sept. 23 directing COA offices to look into the government funds received by PRC from Jan. 2016 to Sept. 2021.
Aguinaldo directed COA’s central and regional offices to submit to their Fraud Audit Office Special Services sector a compilation of audit findings per sector on the subsidies and/or fund transfer received and utilized by PRC.
The offices were also instructed to submit a duly signed summary schedule of subsidies and/or funds received by PRC on the same period.
“This is really a very welcome development. And I commend our Solicitor General (Solgen) for his quick [action], as well as, COA Chairman Aguinaldo for paving the way for the long overdue audit of the Philippine Red Cross,” Duterte said.
Duterte ordered Solgen to coordinate with COA for the audit of PRC after it failed to submit a regular financial report as mandated under Republic Act No. 10072 or the Philippine Red Cross Act of 2009.
The President wanted PRC to be also scrutinized after its chairman, Senator Gordon, continued to lead the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee inquiry into the COA’s 2020 report on P62-billion “deficiencies” in the purchase of pandemic-related supplies by the Department of Health, which outsourced its buying chores to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM). A startup with a measly P625,000 in paid-up capital, Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, cornered an estimated P11 billion plus in contracts out of the P42 billion that DOH transferred to PS-DBM. Duterte has staunchly defended Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who caused the transfer without a memorandum of agreement, and Davao-based businessman Michael Yang, who was named as Pharmally funder in the Senate hearings.
Duterte said the Blue Ribbon investigation was in aid of Gordon’s political goals, and accused the lawmaker of using PRC funds to finance his election campaign.
Duterte insists the Senate “disrespected” the executive for its long probe on the issue, which he said is affecting government efforts against Covid-19 by keeping Cabinet members in charge of the pandemic response for questioning,
The President said he issued a memorandum disallowing Cabinet members from appearing in the Blue Ribbon.
“The Senate is not a criminal court. Stop using it simply as a witch-hunt,” Duterte said.
“The Executive branch of government did its job for immediate pandemic response and there was no iota of evidence of overpricing or money lost to corruption,” he added.
Duterte earlier prodded COA to collect over P140 million in a notice of disallowance issued against Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) during Gordon’s time there.He alleged that P86 million of that went to Gordon, who had accused Duterte of waging a personal vendetta. The Blue Ribbon chairman has refused to back down despite Duterte’s constant tirades.