President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed Solicitor General Jose Calida to pen a letter addressed to Commission on Audit (COA) chair Michael Aguinaldo requesting the finances of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to be audited.
The PRC is headed by Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, which is probing the government’s use of Covid-19 pandemic funds.
“I am ordering the SolGen, si Calida, to write Aguinaldo a letter and ask Aguinaldo to conduct immediately an audit diyan sa (there in) Red Cross na ‘yan,” he said in a pre-recorded public address aired Thursday morning.
Duterte renewed the call to audit the PRC, saying Gordon, who he described as a “despot” had used the humanitarian organization as a milking cow for his election campaign.
“Senators, I’m asking you, I do not want a fight with you, but what else do you want? You can do what you want). You can slaughter everybody there, whatever you want. Us in the government we ordered, there was delivery, then we paid, then we’re done,” he said partly in Filipino, referring to a local firm that bagged some P8.68 billion worth of deals for Covid-19 pandemic response last year.
He said the series of Senate probes “started with some incomprehensible reason”, noting that the Department of Health (DOH) is already addressing the deficiencies in the COA report which pertain to inventory matters in the supplies.
Despite a series of Senate probes into alleged overpriced purchases of government, Duterte said Gordon could not scare him because corruption was not his “style”.
“I’m not a thief like you. I don’t have a Red Cross that I milk money from every day. It’s not my style,” he said in Filipino. “I’ve been in government for nearly 40 years, why would I steal now?”
Duterte said he would allow Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to keep attending Senate probes to “just tell the plain truth”. He earlier asked his Cabinet officials to get his consent before showing up at Senate inquiries.
“Since it was already started), Secretary Duque, I would allow him to complete his story. Anyway, he was already able to testify in the House [of Representatives]. Just to allow Gordon to show more of his stupidity.That’s why I’ll let them return. Just tell the plain truth kay Gordon,” he said partly in Filipino.
He expressed confidence that Gordon’s panel would not be able to find any anomalies, stressing that his Cabinet members were all “clean.”Duterte also praised the House committee on good government and public accountability for allowing their resource persons a “fair chance” of getting their stories heard, in contrast to Gordon’s panel in the Senate.