Updated: 12:45 am Sept. 17, 2021
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Commission on Audit (CoA) to look into the books of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), claiming that Sen. Richard Gordon reaped undue benefits for serving as concurrent chairman of the private humanitarian organization.
Duterte directed Solicitor General Jose Calida to relay the order to CoA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo.
Insisting anew that there were no irregularities in the purchase of medical supplies for the government's Covid-19 response and that no member of his Cabinet has committed any wrongdoing, the President accused Gordon of being the one involved in corrupt practices.
"I would be lying if I say there is no corruption. In some other offices now, agencies, department, there are. But I'm making you this guarantee, 'yung Cabinet members wala 'yan, puro malinis 'yan (in the Cabinet, there is no one; they are all clean). Ang mga senador mayroon (There are some among the senators); Gordon is one," Duterte said.
He again belied accusations his administration took the shortcut in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) from the company Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.
"There was no overpricing which some senators are also desperately trying to establish. Everything was delivered. There were no ghost deliveries as some senators are implying. Nakinig naman kayo sa CoA; wala naman silang sinabi na overpricing. There were no claims of ghost deliveries. But itong theories ng mga senador... Kaya sabi ko we do not want to quarrel with you guys, but kung marendahan ninyo 'yang si Gordon. Otherwise, we will come to a head (You listened to CoA; they didn't mention overpricing. There were no claims of ghost deliveries. But these senators' theories... That's why I said we do not want to quarrel with you guys, but if you can just rein in Gordon. Otherwise, we will come to a head)," he said.
Duterte went on to allege that Gordon made the PRC his "milking cow" during his senatorial campaigns.
"Hindi ako kawatan kagaya mo. Wala akong Red Cross na ginagatasan araw-araw (I'm not a thief like you. I don't have a Red Cross that I milk everyday). It's not my style," he said.
The President also scored Gordon and the PRC for charging the public a fee for donated blood.
"Alam mo mahilig kayong magpa-bloodletting - isang battalion na pulis, isang battalion na army. Tapos ang mga tao diyan kung kailangan, bumili. Ang mahirap diyan o mayaman gusto ng dugo sa Red Cross, nagbabayad. Nasaan naman 'yung mga dugo na kinuha mo diyan sa mga sundalo pati pulis, pati 'yung mga civilian. I'm just trying to reconcile (You know, you always conduct bloodletting activities - one battalion of the police, one battalion of the army. But when the people need it, they buy it. Rich or poor, if they need blood from the Red Cross, they pay. Where is the blood you get from the military, police and even the civilian? I'm just trying to reconcile)," he said.
He called on the people to not vote for a "fool" like Gordon.
The Palace has insisted that state auditors have the authority to look into the financial records of the PRC, as mandated by Republic Act 10072, or the "Philippine Red Cross Act of 2009," which gives CoA the power to submit an annual report to the President containing its activities and financial condition.
RA 10072 also recognizes the President as the honorary president of the PRC.
Duterte fired his latest salvo at Gordon after praising the House of Representatives for the way it conducted its inquiry into the alleged anomalies in the procurement of medical supplies from Pharmally.
The President said the House's probe was "more sane" and that "those who were called to testify were able to complete their story."
"So, what was established in the congressional lower house? We go back to what we have been saying since the very start and I will say this again for the benefit of those who cannot seem to comprehend and those who refuse to understand. I am addressing this statement to Gordon," Duterte said in his pre-recorded Talk to the Nation public address aired Thursday.
"Gordon is one of a kind. Kaya sabi ko if the Filipino people nakikinig kayo, dump the guy (That's why I said if the Filipino people are listening, dump the guy). He is a fraud," he said.
The House inquiry, he noted, contrasted sharply to the probe of the Senate blue ribbon committee chaired by Gordon.
"I'd like to address myself to the other senators. It might seem that we are egging for a fight with you. We are not. Ang problema diyan 'yung (The problem there is the) blue ribbon chairman is a despot. He does not allow anybody to answer, and he cuts the testimony of even the CoA," the President said.
"Even if we continue to hear this case until kingdom come, I do not think that you will get anything there, except that you want to dance before the bar of public opinion so that you will be noticed and maybe try to impress the voters in this coming election that you are an intellectual - that you are a - a ghostbuster sa mga katiwalian sa gobyerno (against irregularities in government)," he said.