Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, a member of the Board of Governors of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), on Monday stressed they are not presidential appointees.
"We're duly elected Board of Governors by the members of Philippine National Red Cross," he said.
According to Gatchalian, they can only be removed for cause, end of term, and failure to participate in the elections of PRC.
Lawyer Larry Gadon on Sunday called for the removal of Senator Richard Gordon as PRC chairman and chief executive officer, and six other presidential appointees as members of the agency’s board.
The other senator-member of the PRC Board is Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri, who has yet to give a statement on the issue like Gordon.
President Rodrigo Duterte last week accused Gordon of using the Red Cross to fund his election campaigns, but the PRC stood by its chairman, with 20 of its governors expressing “staunch and unequivocal support” to Gordon.
They hailed the senator as an unsalaried volunteer and has led the PRC into a “responsive and modernized institution.”
Gadon, meanwhile, said Gordon has overstayed at the PRC, and that Gatchalian, Zubiri, Quirino Gov. Dakila Carlo Chua, and three other appointees of Duterte must give way for an election of a new PRC chairman.
Meanwhile, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go said the government maintains the right to investigate the financial transactions of the PRC with any government agency, in so far as it involves the use of public funds.
Go noted that Duterte, as the honorary president of the PRC, is within his rights to request a probe on the annual reports submitted by the organization.
This includes the execution of a multimillion-peso Memorandum of Agreement signed between the PRC and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. at the start of the pandemic for COVID-19 testing.
“Let's see what is in the law of Philippine Red Cross: 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,” Go said.
He said there are also funds in the Red Cross that came from government funds. "And there were also expenses of the Red Cross which came from Philhealth."
Sought about the possible conflict of interest, Go clarified that he only deemed it necessary to point out that the Chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee – Gordon -- is leading the investigation into the government’s handling of COVID-19 funds but is also the Chairman of PRC, which also has financial engagements with the government.
Hence, he said this could affect the impartiality and credibility of the probe.
Despite these issues, the former presidential aide maintained he is ready and willing to work with his colleagues to get to the bottom of the issues surrounding the use of COVID-19 funds.
As the Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, he vowed to continue helping in the government’s pandemic response with strict vigilance to safeguard public funds.
“I will actively participate as I have always been doing," Go said.
The Senator reaffirmed his and the President’s enduring commitment to the fight against corruption. He stressed that any individual found guilty, regardless of affinities and associations, must be held accountable in accordance with the law.
Fairness and due process must be upheld in all these, according to Go.