‘Red Cross books open for scrutiny’

© PhilSTAR Daily, Inc

Neil Jayson Servallos

– The Philippine Star

September 22, 2021 | 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Richard Gordon was unfazed by President Duterte’s continued attacks against him, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and the ongoing Senate Blue Ribbon committee inquiry into alleged anomalies in the procurement of COVID-19 supplies, even daring the Chief Executive to do his “worst.”

Gordon delivered his response to Duterte’s tirades at the resumption of the committee’s inquiry into the corruption scandal, where he pointed out that it was the government that sought the help of the PRC in conducting COVID-19 tests and vaccinations and was profusely acknowledged by administration officials for its help.

He lamented that instead of talking about programs to fight the pandemic and addressing hunger and unemployment, Duterte chose to “lambast the Senate…to demolish this person and even the society (PRC) I have religiously worked for without pay for the last 53 years.”

“Quite frankly you are boring, Mr. President. I’m not afraid of you. I’m not a coward. Do your worst, Mr. President, as you did with ABS-CBN. Do your worst as you did with a senator elected by the people,” Gordon said, referring to the shutdown of the broadcast giant, and Sen. Leila de Lima, who has been in detention since 2017.

He said he expects the President to do his worst as what he did to then House speaker Prospero Nograles. He did not elaborate.

“But I’m not going to waste my time with you, Mr. President, because you are no longer respectable as far as I’m concerned, and most of the Filipinos are concerned,” he said.

He also expressed disappointment that Duterte appears to be pressuring the Commission on Audit (COA) to investigate the PRC which, he said, has nothing to hide.

He said the PRC’s books are open to scrutiny as all government donations to the humanitarian organization – comprising only one percent of all contributions – are all accounted for.

“You have deprived the Filipino people, Mr. President. Many have died but you’re busy politicking? Why are you picking on people who are just doing their jobs? I thought you abhor corruption?” Gordon said in Filipino.

He asked Duterte to do his job instead of “lawyering” for his friends and appointees allegedly involved in corruption.

The committee is looking into allegations that the bulk of the P42 billion transferred from the Department of Health (DOH) to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) last year went to a few and favored companies, including Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., a company being linked to former presidential adviser Michael Yang and Duterte.

Pharmally, according to records obtained by the committee, obtained some P8.7 billion in supply contracts from the PS-DBM from March to the end of last year. As of June this year, the company had estimated P12 billion total in supply contracts with the PS-DBM.

The PRC, meanwhile, said it stands by the integrity of the positive results issued by its molecular laboratory in Subic amid a probe by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) following a supposed complaint of false positives introduced at a recent hearing at the House of Representatives.

In a statement, the PRC said its molecular laboratories were implementing strict standards imposed by the DOH and the RITM, which had issued the PRC a license to operate after obtaining a 100 percent score for proficiency tests.

“This test and the strict implementation of quality standards in all PRC laboratories based on protocols set upon by manufacturers, in line with the standards set forth by the DOH and the RITM, assure the public of the accuracy of test results released by the PRC,” it said in a statement.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier told lawmakers during a hearing at the House of Representatives that they received a complaint that 44 of 49 fully vaccinated health personnel tested positive for COVID-19.

The “false positive test results” of PRC-Subic were done on Sept. 3, and the health personnel had a “re-swab” test three days later, which turned out that only five of the 49 health care workers were positive for the virus. The “re-testing” was conducted at the laboratory at The Medical City in Clark.

In response to the allegations, the PRC said it had ordered a total re-run of the tests after the first test to ensure the accuracy of results.

“On the second run, the results came out exactly the same. The Subic laboratory followed standard operating procedures and quality assurance guidelines as it has done for all 122,000 samples processed by the Subic lab from July 1, 2020 to Sept. 3, 2021,” the PRC said.

The organization further explained that the “timing” of the tests relative to exposure to the virus and its sampling method, test kits, extraction method and the PCR machine, were factors that may have produced different results.

“The negative result of the tests in question came from specimens collected after three days, which may be one such factor for the negative result. Clients may have truly been negative already by the time their second sample was taken,” the PRC explained. “In such cases, the DOH encourages us to err on the side of caution and treat all positive results as true positive. This is designed to protect everyone, including the clients and their families and co-workers. This is especially true for health care workers who are constantly at risk of exposure to the virus,” the PRC added.