Senator Christopher “Bong” Go said that the government maintains the right to investigate the financial transactions of the Philippine Red Cross with any government agency in so far as it involves the use of public funds.
Go explained that President Rodrigo Duterte, the honorary president of the PRC, is within his rights to request a probe on the annual reports submitted by the organization, including the execution of a multi-million peso Memorandum of Agreement signed between the PRC and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation at the start of the pandemic for Covid-19 testing.
“Tingnan na lang po, pakisilip na lang po, kung ano ang nakalagay sa batas sa Philippine Red Cross: at the end of every calendar year, submit to the President of the Philippines, an annual report containing its activities and showing its financial condition. Kasi may mga pondo rin sa Red Cross na mula rin po sa mga government funds nanggagaling. At mayroon din pong gastos ang Red Cross na mula rin po o galing sa Philhealth,” Go explained.
“Ibig sabihin nito may pondo pa rin ito na mula gobyerno. Ang dapat ay i-account rin po kung ano po ‘yung mga pondong mula sa gobyerno. Ang amin lang po dito, ano po ‘yung totoo at in fairness po sa lahat ng nagtatrabaho,” he added.
When asked about the possible conflict of interest, Go clarified that he only deemed it necessary to point out that the Chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, Sen. Richard Gordon, who is leading the investigation into the government’s handling of COVID-19 funds is also the Chairman of PRC which also has financial engagements with the government. Hence, this could affect the impartiality and credibility of the probe.
“Nasa sa kanya na ‘yon kung bibitawan niya. Personal na desisyon niya ‘yan. Ang nasabi ko lang naman baka maaaring mayroong conflict of interest dahil it is common knowledge that the Chairman of Blue Ribbon Committee is also the Chairman of Philippine Red Cross … Tapos ngayon, imbestigahan mo ‘yung PhilHealth … So, may mga katanungan lang na baka magkaroon ng conflict of interest,” he continued.
Go reiterated his deep respect for Sen. Gordon and his other colleagues in the Senate. With regard to the speech he gave at the Senate Session on August 31, Go clarified that he only meant to voice his sentiments at what he felt was a lack of respect for fairness and due process.
“Wala naman akong problema kay Senator Gordon. Sabi ko naman na mataas ang respeto ko sa kanya. Ang hinihingi ko lang naman sa privilege speech ay ganoong respeto rin ang ibigay sa akin, bilang isang senador. Kung ano ang ibinigay na pagkakataon sa iba na makapagsalita, ganon rin sana sa akin. Ituring lang din ako isang senador tulad ng iba,” he said, before adding that his intentions to serve the public at the Senate are genuine.
“Gagawin ko ang lahat. Bagama’t baguhan lang ako sa Senado, matalo man ako sa debate … pantay-pantay kami. Ang pinagmamalaki ko lang ang pagseserbisyo ko sa ating kapwa Pilipino… Malinis ang aking hangarin. Iyon lang ang pondo ko rito: pagseserbisyo, pangalan at prinsipiyo,” insisted Go.
Despite these issues, the Senator maintained that he is ready and willing to work with his colleagues to get to the bottom of the issues surrounding the use of COVID-19 funds. As the Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, he vowed to continue helping in the government’s pandemic response with strict vigilance to safeguard public funds.
“I will actively participate as I have always been doing. Lalung-lalo na ang pangunahing usapan dito ay paggamit ng pondo for COVID-19 response. Bilang chair ng Senate Committee on Health, interes ko na masiguradong magagamit ng tama ang pondo ng taumbayan at maayos ang dapat ayusin dahil nasa gitna tayo ng pandemya … especially in times of crisis, every single peso counts,” stressed Go.
“Iisa ang aming layunin dito, ang sugpuin ang korapsyon. Sabi ko naman sa kanya (Gordon) labanan natin ang korapsyon. Isa tayo sa paglaban kontra korapsyon. Kapag may mali naman magsasalita ako. Hindi ako natatakot na magsalita … Inihalal din ako ng taumbayan, pareho lang kami na gagawin ang aming trabaho” he continued.
The Senator reaffirmed his and the President’s enduring commitment to the fight against corruption. He stressed that any individual found guilty, regardless of affinities and associations, must be held accountable in accordance with the law. Fairness and due process must be upheld in all these, according to Go.