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Has Gordon refused audit of Red Cross? He hasn't actually said anything

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Has Gordon refused audit of Red Cross? He hasn't actually said anything
A doctor shows the Natch RNA Extractor along with other new machines inside the newly inaugurated molecular laboratory of the Philippine Red Cross at the Port Area in Manila in June 2020.
The STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — As the Palace doubled down Tuesday on the need to audit the Philippine Red Cross, the Office of Sen. Richard Gordon — chair of the Red Cross and who President Rodrigo Duterte has accused of misusing the charity's funds — said the senator has not made statements refusing the planned audit.

Gordon is also chair of the Senate Blue Ribbin Committee that has been holding hearings on government pandemic spending. The probe, based on Commission on Audit findings, has prompted the president to demand an audit of the Philippine Red Cross, which he said Gordon has been using as a "milking cow."

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday reiterated the request to audit the Philippine Red Cross, which he said government can do because the humanitarian organization has contracts with the government.

He said the Philippine Red Cross should not refuse an audit if it has nothing to hide, an argument that the government often uses against critics.

No Gordon statement on potential audit

Asked about the supposed refusal, a member of Gordon's staff said he has not made statements on the plan to audit the Philippine Red Cross. "Wala naman siyang sinabing ganyan (He did not say anything like that), as far as I know," Gordon's staffer said.

Roque on Monday stressed that the Philippine Red Cross receives money from the Philippine Gaming Corp. and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. 

The Commission on Audit has said the PRC is not under its jurisdiction and that it can only audit payments made by state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. to the humanitarian group, a position that the Palace disagrees with.

"Kinakailangan po kasi sumunod sa sinasabi ng Saligang Batas at ng batas na basta pondo ng gobyerno, pu-puwede pong i-audit ng Commission on Audit. Ang tanong ko lang naman po, kung walang tinatago, bakit ayaw magpa-audit?"

(We need to follow the Constitution and other laws that say that if it is government funds, the Commission on Audit kang audit it. My question is, if you are not hiding anything, then why not submit to an audit?)

But Gordon has not responded to the president's allegations about the Philippine Red Cross. He is quoted in a Manila Bulletin report as saying he does not want to respond to an attempt to distract from "deficiencies" that the COA flagged in the government's spending on pandemic response.

BusinessWorld, in a September 3 story, quotes Gordon as saying "[i]t is an honor to be attacked for doing my job both in the Senate and at the Red Cross."

"I have nothing to be ashamed of," he also said, adding that the allegations were "an attempt by the president to try and distract the people once again."

The Senate website, which carries Gordon's statements and press releases, does not have any statements related to the audit of the PRC that Duterte wants either. The website has, in the past, posted Gordon's statements related to the Red Cross.

His Facebook page does not have any posts related to an audit of the Red Cross either.

President Duterte, in a speech aired Saturday, said he would ask the Philippine Red Cross to submit to an audit.

"I will write you a letter to open up your records," Duterte said.

"Ngayon, kung ayaw mo, mapipilitan akong (Now, if you don’t want to, I will be forced to) totally disassociate with you. I will stop the national government from having transactions with you in any manner."

It is unclear if the letter has already been sent to the humanitarian organization.

Philippine Red Cross: We account for donations from government 

The Philippine Red Cross, which said it is audited "by a private international accounting firm which is also the auditor of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies", has acknowledged receiving donations from government agencies.

It also said it "has faithfully accounted for the use of such funds in compliance with the donor agencies’ liquidation and reportorial requirements. These government agencies, in turn, are subject to annual audit by the Commission on Audit."

"To date, there has not been any adverse finding on any transaction whereby government funds were given to the Philippine Red Cross," the organization said.

The PRC said reports of these donations may be obtained by the Office of the President directly from these government agencies, and audits on these government agencies, if any, may be secured from COA. — Jonathan de Santos with a report from Bella Perez-Rubio

PHILIPPINE RED CROSS RICHARD GORDON RODRIGO DUTERTE
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