Senator Richard Gordon today defended the Philippine Red Cross from President Rodrigo Duterte, who accused the non-profit organization of being “greedy” because it was running after the government over its unpaid debts.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque told the president last night in a televised briefing that the Red Cross has resumed giving “free” COVID tests to the public, prompting Duterte to say, “Mukhang pera,” which roughly translates to “greedy for money.” The Red Cross temporarily halted giving free tests after the state insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), its creditor, failed to pay for the tests. At one point, the government’s debt ballooned to PHP930 million (US$19.114 million).
The PhilHealth signed an agreement with the Red Cross earlier this year, hiring the non-profit to conduct free tests to frontliners and other government agencies for PHP3,500 (US$73) each.
Gordon, the chairman of the Red Cross, sounded forgiving in an interview with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo.
“I’ll give him (Duterte) the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he is referring to those who are taking advantage [of the public]. When we weren’t testing [they were charging more] while our tests were affordable,” Gordon said in English and Filipino.
“We are not greedy. But what I can say is, he (Duterte) should be careful about what he says because we are helping people. We’re not the ones in debt; they are. They asked us to test, and we did. Shouldn’t they pay for that? I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt out of respect to the president,” the senator added.
Gordon said that PhilHealth has already paid about PHP500 million (US$10.366 million) in October, but it still needs to pay PHP377 million (US$7.816 million) to Red Cross. He added that the state insurer has to pay every three days so that its debt would be manageable.
The Philippines has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia at 389,725, including 349,543 recoveries and 7,409 deaths.