Will a government audit on the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) help move the investigation into the billions of pesos worth of contracts awarded to the Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.? Such audit into the books of the PRC, if even possible, will not push forward the investigation into the Pharmally contracts. It could lead to the discovery of corrupt practices but it will be a long shot to identifying plunder or misdeed in the handling of funds in the country’s coronavirus disease (Covid-19) response.
It does not make sense then to side with either President Rodrigo Duterte on his call for the Commission on Audit (COA) to scrutinize PRC finances or Senator Richard Gordon who heads the Senate blue ribbon committee and is also PRC chairman.
The COA cannot audit PRC because the latter is a non-governmental organization (NGO). The PRC, in a statement to answer Duterte, said Friday that, as defined by RA 10072, the non-government organization is “voluntary, independent, and autonomous,” and it does not receive appropriations from the government. It received donations, including those from government agencies, but the money was “properly liquidated and no dispute has ever been raised regarding them.”
While COA said it cannot audit the PRC, news reports point to a circular that says COA may audit an NGO if a request is made by proper authorities. In addition, Duterte is PRC honorary president and he may require the submission of PRC financial statements to his office.
But any effort to study PRC funding will veer public attention away from the ongoing Senate inquiry on the use of pandemic funds. That is the pressing matter. The Senate started the inquiry and should finish it.
Imagine what the price difference in medical supplies could mean for Covid-19 patients. According to the Senate inquiry, the government bought from Pharmally personal protective equipment worth P1,700 each when the price at that time from other sources was lower by several hundreds of pesos per set. That price difference multiplied by the number of pieces purchased could buy more Remdesivir or Tocilizumab for those gasping for air in hospitals.
No, there’s no need to side with Duterte or Gordon/PRC. There is a need, however, to pursue the investigation into any misuse of public funds in this pandemic.
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I understand that there are opposing opinions about the use of ivermectin in the treatment of Covid-19 patients. I did not claim to know everything when I wrote about ivermectin in the SunStar Cebu issue last Tuesday, August 31, 2021, and, yes, I based my opinion on data made available by government agencies here and abroad. But I appreciate that those who reacted to what I wrote sent me more material on the subject matter. I agree there is a need for more study and discourse on ivermectin in relation to Covid-19. I do hope that the government could decide on better ways to manage the pandemic.