Duterte accuses PH Red Cross of gaffes in COVID tests

MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday alleged that the Philippine Red Cross erred multiple times in conducting COVID-19 tests in the country. 

In a taped public briefing, Duterte cited a report which bared that 44 hospital personnel, who were declared COVID-19 positive by the Philippine Red Cross after a swab test, turned out to be “false positives” after undergoing confirmatory tests in another molecular laboratory.

He did not mention which medical institution the front liners work for.

Duterte also cited another report saying that more than 200 personnel of the Presidential Security Group and the Department of Finance were also diagnosed positive earlier by the Red Cross but tested negative after confirmatory tests.

The President ripped Sen. Richard “Dick” Gordon, chair of the Philippine Red Cross, for the reports on the organization’s COVID-19 tests.

“Ang mahirap nito Dick, paano ‘yung mga tao na tumanggap na lang sa PCR test ninyo na positive sila, when all along, negative sila. But because walang pera . . . The meek, unassertive ones pasunod-sunod na lang and had to endure a confinement of two weeks. When all along, tested negative pala sila,” Duterte said.

“‘Yan ang problema mo sa Red Cross. Problema ka na, problema pa ang Red Cross sa iyo.”

Duterte said the Department of Health should investigate the reports on Red Cross’ COVID-19 tests.

“Ilan ‘yung nadagdag dun sa nagpositive sa isang araw … na negative. Nasali na dun sa numero na napakarami … how sure are we now in our figures?” he said.

Duterte earlier ordered the government’s lead lawyer to instruct the Commission on Audit (COA) to look into the finances of the Philippine Red Cross. In a recent speech, he questioned why the organization charges fees for blood donations it collects from volunteers. 

COA chairman Michael Aguinaldo has said state auditors had no jurisdiction over the humanitarian organization as it is not a government agency. The PRC board of governors, in a statement, has also said it does not receive any funds from the government. 

Duterte’s order came days after Gordon began to lead a legislative inquiry into the national government’s pandemic transactions, including the procurement of allegedly overpriced anti-virus masks and face shields. 

The Senate probe, led by Gordon, is focused on the government’s purchase of billions-worth of pandemic equipment from a company ran by alleged Taiwanese fugitives who supposedly have links to Michael Yang, a Chinese businessman and also a former adviser of Duterte.

Senators earlier bared a 2017 Malacañang video that showed Yang introducing the President to officials of Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp., which was incorporated only in 2019 with a P599,000 capital but was awarded P8.6 billion in government contracts when it had no track record of delivering quality and reasonably-priced materials.

Duterte said he has known Yang, a Davao-based businessman, for about 20 years. He said he tapped Yang when he initially “made contacts with the Chinese.” 

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