President Rodrigo Duterte is known for off-the-cuff, one-liner comments even on live broadcasts, but was his most recent a step too far?
In a rare occurrence, Malacañang decided to go back to showing weekly IATF meetings late at night.
Whilst nothing new was announced, a line seems to have caught the eye of netizens as Health Sec. Francisco Duque III was reporting the status of the country’s COVID-19 tests.
Tinawag ni Duterte ang Philippine Red Cross na “mukhang pera” just because they chose to proceed with testing only after PhilHealth partially paid their PHP 1.1 B debt. PRC is a humanitarian organization purely funded by donations. Need I say more? pic.twitter.com/OKtHnKS0q6
— kayeza (@khyeiza) November 5, 2020
Yes, the President himself just called the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) mukhang pera (greedy).
This comes after Duque reported that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) finally coughed up half of its near-P1 billion debt to the PRC, which has done 25% of the country’s COVID-19 tests. Another P100 million was paid on Thursday, November 5.
“Nabayaran na po ang PRC at nagbukas na po silang muli kaya patuloy na po ang kanilang pagsusuri ng mga swab specimen,” Duque said.
The PRC is responsible for testing thousands of incoming OFWs, some of which have had to stay in Metro Manila for days due to the PRC stopping its COVID-19 tests.
Netizens were not pleased with the President’s off-the-cuff remark, especially in the face of the pandemic.
Duterte to Philippine Red Cross for suspending Covid-19 testing amidst PhilHealth debt: “MUKHANG PERA.”
PRC maybe: pic.twitter.com/C4a8e7RBJq
— missprecybeth (@missprecybeth) November 5, 2020
Anong gusto ni Duterte, libre? Kailangan ng PRC ng pera to operate, eh itong si Duterteng inutil at ang mga alipores niya, buhay hari sa nakaw na pera ng bayan at sa mga monkey businesses nila. The nerve, the lazy, inutile stupid!🤬
— maris hidalgo (@marishidalgo1) November 5, 2020
Some pointed out how that quip was a slap to the face of Senator Richard Gordon, who is also the PRC chairman.
Hi Gordon, the clown you enable just branded you 'mukhang pera' 🙂
— kiko rustia (@kikorustia) November 5, 2020
Some even pointed out how this was nothing compared to the billions of pesos PhilHealth officials swindled from Filipinos—officials which include the health secretary himself.
But is quiet about the stolen billions of pesos allegedly by Philhealth officials. Nagcommit kayong magbabayad pagsiningil ganyan??? https://t.co/6TPR0mhLYB
— AThousandTimesOver (@pouroutsoul) November 5, 2020
Parallels were also drawn to Filipinos who borrowed money from someone else—and had the guts to be angry whenever the person they owed money to comes a calling.
Typical Filipino: kung sino pa nangutang, sya pa ang galit.
You might want to thank PRC for "improving" your COVID stats. With less tests, there would be less… https://t.co/tnfkYQPPxJ
— what are they distracting us from? (@psychokenetics) November 5, 2020
That’s what people “Who borrows money, then gets upset when it’s time collect” would say https://t.co/KaXU3huT97
— Chris Bautista (@chris_bautista) November 5, 2020
Netizens also pointed out the obvious: COVID-19 testing was never free to begin with, and the PRC needed money to buy test kits that the Department of Health—headed by Duque—has endorsed; i.e. those from China.
GHORL PANO SILA MAKAKAPAGTEST KUNG WALA SILANG PERA PAMBILI NG TESTING KITS ANO? https://t.co/fhKzC6K93S
— Bathala (@itsGodBiatch) November 5, 2020
Sourcing and purchasing test kits, manpower, and sustainability operations all cost money.
The PRC is an nongovernmental, nonprofit organization that runs on donations. 1B debt from the government? Jusko. https://t.co/87zGo8JcdD
— Alex (@ayyylexa) November 5, 2020
hala huy ser, you still need to pay for those. grabe right after the agency help you in difficult situations ganon ganon nalang itatawag niyo sa kanila? excuse me but the tests arent cheap?????? https://t.co/JDlGT7rPDS
— tayn. K开I SUPREMACY (@jongintosoo) November 5, 2020
Waw ha, anong akala mo, mani lang yung mga tests?
— psb (@bayannagalit) November 5, 2020
Meanwhile, PRC chair Sen. Richard Gordon on Friday said he was not offended, “I’m not offended. I think the President should really be careful. Minsan hindi niya alam that the statement is not really presidential.”
“I think he (Duterte) was misled by the statement. The way the predicate was laid out by Sec. Duque was wrong… Sabi niya, ‘Nagtest na ulit nung binayaran,'” the senator added.