All transactions between PRC, PhilHealth are legal – Gordon

Published September 21, 2020, 8:43 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

The Board of Governors of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) on Monday, Sept. 21, disputed allegations of irregularities in the multi-million agreement between the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and the PRC, chaired by Senator Richard Gordon, saying all transactions between the two organizations are legal.

Senator Richard Gordon (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

The group issued the statement following Senator Leila de Lima’s statement that Gordon should answer the “allegations of impropriety” against him “for the sake of the Senate and the PRC.”

De Lima also called for a separate full-blown investigation on the nature of the transaction between PRC and PhilHealth as “badges of irregularities are undeniable.”

“All the transactions between the PRC and PhilHealth are legal and needed by the country,” the PRC board of governors said in a statement.

“It is ludicrous and a downright shame that Sen. De Lima is hitting Chairman Gordon and the PRC after they have done so much for the country. With all the time she has in incarceration, she should have first studied the law,” they said in the statement.

The PRC said De Lima should have known that the transactions in the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) dated 05 May 2020 between the PRC and PhilHealth is exempted from Republic Act No. 9184, of the Government Procurement Reform Act.

In the statement, the PRC pointed out that under the Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, the government is allowed to “undertake the procurement” of goods, supplies, etc. “in the most expeditious manner as exemptions from the provisions of Republic Act No. 9184, or the ‘Government Procurement Reform Act’ and other relevant laws”.

Under the law, the PRC reminded that the procurement of test kits are included. 

“The law further qualifies that the Department of Health (DOH) shall prioritize the allocation and distribution of such goods, supplies, etc. to ‘public and private laboratories that have existing capacities to test suspected COVID-19 patients’,” they said.

“Moreover, Sec. 4(l) of the Act mandates the government to partner with the PRC as the primary humanitarian agency in giving aid to the people, subject to reimbursement, in the distribution of goods and services in the fight against COVID-19. This provision does not expressly exclude ‘advance or mobilization fees which is actually a revolving fund,” they pointed out. 

The PRC, the premier humanitarian organization in the Philippines, also clarified that the alleged advance payment given to them by PhilHealth happened only once. Thereafter, the PRC, has been advancing tests despite of PhilHealth’s unsettled obligations to PRC, which is now more than P500-million.

“From a pragmatic point of view, and in light of pandemic, the name of the game is speed and capacity,” the PRC said.

“It would be ludicrous for the PRC to have to wait to get paid before it can purchase more testing kits, which is the primary reason for the revolving fund,” they pointed out.

PRC’s statement also refuted allegations there was a conflict of interest on the part of Gordon being the chairman of the PRC. They said Gordon, or the PRC, never approached the government to offer the PRC’s services. 

“It was the government and local government units (LGUs) that came to PRC to be tested,” they said.

Contrary to De Lima’s accusations, the PRC also said the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM), which was one of the issues investigated by the Senate regarding PhilHealth anomalies, was never part of the deal. 

“Nowhere in the MOA with PhilHealth was the IRM mentioned. Sen. De Lima is being malicious,” the PRC Board stressed.