President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday ordered the government's chief lawyer to ask the Commission on Audit to check the finances of the Philippine Red Cross, which is headed by a political opponent, Sen. Richard Gordon.
Duterte asked Solicitor General Jose Calida to write a letter to the COA (a constitutional body that is independent from the Office of the President), asking it to asses the financial records of the Red Cross (a private entity).
Here is the Article IX of the 1987 Constitution that defines the scope of COA and its fellow constitutional commissions like Comelec and the Commission on Human Rights.
"I am ordering the SolGen, si Calida, to write Aguinaldo a letter, ask Aguinaldo to conduct immediately an audit diyan sa Red Cross na 'yan," Duterte said, referring to COA chairman Michael Aguinaldo.
While Red Cross is a non-government humanitarian organization, the Department of Justice said public funds it receives could still be audited by COA.
Duterte's audit request of the Red Cross came as the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, which is chaired too by Gordon, continues its investigation into alleged misuse of government COVID-19 response funds.
Calling Gordon a "despot," Duterte accused the senator of using Red Cross funds for his own.
"Nawala na ang respeto ko sa iyo kaya ang sabi ko sa tao 'huwag niyo iboto ang buang na iyan'," Duterte told Gordon.
Gordon has denied corruption of Red Cross funds and insisted on continuing the Senate's investigation into alleged corruption of government pandemic funds.
"We will remain steadfast. Itutuloy natin ang imbestigasyon na ito sa kabila ng pagbabanta at pananakot na ginagawa ngayon mismo ng ating Pangulo. Nakakalungkot pero ‘yan ang ginagawa niya at hinaharap pa ang ibang mga ahensya ng mga volunteer organizations," he said earlier this week.