MANILA - Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque asserted Thursday that his remarks reflect that of the country's leader, after Sen. Richard Gordon criticized his comments on the coronavirus testing halt of the Philippine Red Cross due to the government's debt.
Gordon, who chairs the PRC that ran about a quarter of the country's total coronavirus tests, said Wednesday that Roque has always "involved himself in PhilHealth affairs."
"Big mouth don't make a big man," the senator told ANC. "He's spokesman of the President, the President told him pay it. What is he doing interpreting? He's always been involving himself in PhilHealth affairs."
But Roque, who had a conflict with Philhealth's former head President Ricardo Morales, said he was speaking not on a personal level.
"Hindi naman po tayo naghihimasok sa issue ng PhilHealth at ng Philippine Red Cross. Kaya lang po, nagsasalita tayo sa ngalan ng ating Presidente," Roque told reporters.
(We are not intruding on the issue of PhilHealth and the Philippine Red Cross. We are just speaking in the name of our President.)
"At importante po talaga kay Presidente Duterte ang testing dahil alam po nating napakaimportanteng kabahagi ito ng ating stratehiya laban sa COVID-19," he added.
(And testing is really important for the President because that is a vital part of our strategy against COVID-19.)
In June, Roque criticized PhilHealth over its supposed inaction to address corruption within the agency even as he asked for additional funds for the Universal Health Care Law. Roque is among the principal authors of the Universal Health Care Law during his time as a sectoral lawmaker.
PhilHealth paid P500 million to the PRC on Tuesday evening, about half of its P1.1-billion bill. Gordon said the remaining P561 million, which amounts to 160,475 tests, should be settled within 3 days.
"Patuloy naman po ang pag-uusap sa panig ng PhilHealth at Red Cross... Kampante naman po tayo na since it was no less than the President that said that the Philippine government will pay. Ano pa ba ho ang hihingin pa ng PRC?," said Roque.
(The talks between PhilHealth and the Red Cross continue. We are confident since it was was no less than the President that said that the Philippine government will pa. What else will the PRC demand?)
"Iyan po ay sovereign guarantee... Inaasahan po natin na patuloy po ang magiging partnership ng gobyerno at ng Philippine Red Cross."
(That is a sovereign guarantee. We expect that the partnership of the government and the Red Cross will continue.)
Roque earlier said the government should not pay the same amount for all Red Cross tests because the humanitarian organization had benefited from donated test kits and machines.
In the meantime, private groups Project Ark and the Philippine Airport Diagnostic Laboratory committed to test repatriated migrant workers, he said.