Duterte says it's a 'dereliction of duty' if COA won't audit PH Red Cross

It would be a dereliction of his duty as head of the Commission on Audit (COA) if Chairman Michael Aguinaldo refuses to audit the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).

COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo (left) Senator Richard Gordon (Photos from Zoom, MANILA BULLETIN)

President Duterte stated this during his pre-recorded "Talk to the People" public briefing wherein he reiterated his intention of going after PRC and its chairman, Senator Richard Gordon.

"How now to persuade COA to conduct the investigation...audit? Because if he (Aguinaldo) refuses, that would be a dereliction of duty," Duterte said during the taped briefing, which was aired on Saturday morning.

"It's going to be a long legal battle if he refuses because COA is an independent body, nobody would want also to tinker with their...lahat (everything)," the Chief Executive said.

Because this, Duterte recalled "reading somewhere" a statement from Aguinaldo wherein he concured with Gordon's take that the government cannot audit PRC, which is a private entity.

Later in the briefing, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said that the COA chairman has apparently taken the position that the PRC is off-limits to government auditors.

But Panelo said that Aguinaldo erred.

"In fact gumawa po ako ng (I wrote a) memorandum addressed sa inyo (to you) at gumawa na rin ako ng statement na mali siya doon (and I also made a statement saying that he was wrong)," Panelo told the President.

"Ang tanong, ano pwede nating gawin kay COA? (The question is, what can we do about COA?) Aba eh, pwede po tayo mag-file ng (Well, we can file a) petition for mandamus compelling COA to perform its duty to audit itong (to audit these) non-governmental association(s) like Philippine National Red Cross," the chief legal counsel said.

"At tama rin po yung sinasabi niyo na kapag hindi ginawa ni Michael Aguinaldo na head ng COA yung kanyang tungkulin, eh dereliction of duty po yun (You're also correct in saying that it would be dereliction of duty if COA head Michael Aguinaldo doesn't do it)," he added.

Duterte earlier said that the PRC receives money from both the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

Panelo confirmed this as well. He noted the Article IX D of the 1987 Constitution "empowers and gives the Commission on Audit the duty to review and to audit even non-governmental organizations who receive regular subsidy from the government."

At any rate, Duterte said he is prepared to wage the long legal battle just to have PRC audited.

"I said this would involve a long legal battle but I am prepared to go into it and demand really the accountability of Senator Gordon and all of them in Red Cross, to account for the money given to them by the government of the Philippines for the longest time.

"And what is really very telling is that I have yet to get a copy of the report which they should be furnishing me every end of the year," Duterte said, referring to a provision in Republic Act (RA) 10072 or the Philippine Red Cross Act.

The provision says that the Red Cross "shall 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.”