It’s blackmail, plain and simple.

That’s how Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers described the Philippine Red Cross’ decision to stop its COVID-19 tests by virtue of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) unpaid debt of P931 million. PhilHealth is run by the government.

BARBERS 1 - Barbers blasts Red Cross for ‘blackmail’
(Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers’ Office / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“I seriously counsel the management of the PRC to stop blackmailing the government. Please remember that every centavo in the coffers of the government comes from every Filipino taxpayer. It is very lamentable that due to the government’s alleged failure to pay its obligation on time, it has been accused of a lot of things,” said Barbers, a vice chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts.

According to the Mindanao solon, the PRC “has no right to impose on the government and demand payment for the alleged testings done on people.”

“For one, it was learned that the (PRC) has no valid contract with PhilHealth over the alleged mass testing to be charged to PhilHealth,” he noted.

This was in reference to the supposed memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the humanitarian agency and the state-run health insurer, which Barbers called illegal.

“In the memorandum issued by the Executive Secretary, all partnerships entered into with (PRC) are ‘subject to reimbursement’ and not advance payment as done by PhilHealth. The MOA therefore between PhilHealth and (PRC) is illegal as PhilHealth has no authority to enter into a MOA and grant (PRC) the advance payments,” he explained.

Barbers further said that, unlike the Red Cross, the government must check the veracity of claims made against it by any entity. It also has to review the legality of the agreement between the PRC and PhilHealth.

“But this should not be taken against the government and blackmail it by stopping a supposedly public and noble duty of the Red Cross, Philippine or International. The people ultimately suffer, not the government. Be true to your purpose and existence,” he said.

The obviously miffed congressman added: “If only for alleged unpaid dues, you will resort to blackmailing? I wonder why the University of the Philippines has not evicted you yet from its property over which allegedly you have not paid rent for years.”

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