Duterte calls Philippine Red Cross ‘mukhang pera’ amid debt issue

President Rodrigo Duterte called the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) “mukhang pera” (greedy) after the government paid half of its nearly P1-billion debt to the humanitarian organization.

During Duterte’s meeting with Cabinet member in Malacañang, Health Secretary Francisco III said that the decrease in reported COVID-19 positives was due to PRC’s suspension of PhilHealth-funded swab tests.

“Nabayaran na po ang PRC at nagbukas na po silang muli kaya patuloy na po ang kanilang pagsusuri ng mga swab specimen,” said.

(PRC has already been paid, and it is open again to continue checking the swab specimen.)

Last week, the Philippine Red Cross finally resumed its COVID-19 testing for the government after Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) paid half of its P903-million debt to the humanitarian organization.
PhilHealth paid P500 million to Red Cross for the COVID-19 tests done on OFWs and returning Filipinos, among others.

PhilHealth’s debt affect Philippine Red Cross operations

On October 15, Red Cross stopped processing COVID-19 tests of those listed in the Department of Health’s expanded testing guidelines (DOH) per its memorandum no. 2020-0258-A, including overseas Filipino workers, individuals through the mega swabbing facilities and local government units, frontline health and government workers, and those arriving in and seaports.
PRC Chairman Richard Gordon earlier said that they would “construct new provincial molecular laboratories” in several provinces due to PhilHealth’s debt.

Gordon said PRC is halting the COVID-19 testing and processing laboratory construction in Quezon, Albay, Pangasinan, Laguna, and the Bangsamoro region.

Gordon added Red Cross also needs about $6-8 million (P300-400 million) to pay for COVID-19 test kits and equipment imported from China.
Red Cross was responsible for about 1 million COVID-19 tests, or nearly 25 percent of the country’s total 3.8 million tests.

PhilHealth earlier committed to pay its P1-billion. However, it was delayed after the state-insurer said it would consult with the Department of Justice first.

“Philhealth should be ashamed of themselves for betraying our vulnerable people,” Gordon said.

On Thursday, PhilHealth paid P100 million more to Philippine Red Cross.