President Duterte's intention to "audit" the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) is justified, as far as his spokesman and fellow lawyer Harry Roque is concerned.
Roque, in a virtual press briefing Monday, Sept. 6, described the Senator Richard Gordon-led PRC as "sui generis", or an entity that it is neither public nor private.
"Tama po dahil hindi naman lahat ng pondo ng ay galing sa gobyerno, hindi talaga i-subject ng audit ng COA but insofar as tumatanggap ang PRC ng government support, kinakailangan i-audit (Since not all funds of PRC came from govenrment, it is really not subject to audit by COA but insofar as the PRC is receiving government support, yes it needs to be audited)," he said.
"Anong dapat i-audit? Unang-una, iyong sinabi ni Presidente, ibinibigay ba ang mga benepisyo sa mga senior citizen? (What should be audited? First, the President's question on whether or not senior citizens' benefits are being given)," Roque said, referring to the law on seniors' discounts.
This was just one of the many details of Duterte's tirades against Gordon last week wherein the senator was accused of using the PRC as his campaign kitty.
Second, Roque said that Red Cross should only charge P1,100 for the conduct of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests on individuals if the machine and test kit used by the person were donated. The RT-PCR test is the most accurate testing method for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
He said the only instance that the PRC can charged the full cost of P4,000 for the test is when the machine and test kits used were privately acquired.
"Ang tanong: Sa bilyun-bilyon na tinanggap na bayad ng for RT-PCR, ano bang basehan ng pagsingil nila? Minsan inilabas ko na iyan, ang sabi ni Senator Gordon, 'Hoy, Harry Roque, hindi ka kasali rito, huwag kang magsalita,' (The question is: Out of the billions of payments received by PRC for RT-PCR, what were their basis for the cost? One time I exposed that and Senator Gordon told me, 'Hey, Harry Roque, you're not part of this, so don't talk)" Roque said.
He emphasized that it must be known exactly how many of the testing machines that Red Cross has were donated and how many were bought.
"Ang alam ko halos lahat ng makina ng Red Cross donated, bakit ang singil P4,000? Eh, alam naman po natin na kapag donated ang machines dapat mas mababa sa P4,000 ang singil sa RT-PCR (What I know is that nearly all of the Red Cross's machines are donated, but why do they change P4,000? We know that if the machines are donated, the RT-PCR cost should be less than P4,000)."
In the end, Roque said it would still be wrong to say that the Gordon-chaired organization doesn't have any bearing on COA. This is because the payroll of PNRC employees is under the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), he said.
"Iyong mga tao po nila ay GSIS members. At iyong mga nagte-test sa kanila, gobyerno po at some point ang nagbigay ng libreng housing para sa kanila. So, kasama po iyon sa audit dahil nga po sui generis ang (Their people are GSIS members. And those that test them are from the government and at some point they were given free housing. So, that's included in the audit since PRC is sui generis)--neither fully public neither is it fully private," he said.