Red Cross: Not just about bloodletting



It is a universal organization that revels in helping people in need and whose humanitarian mission transcends the figures who run it.

From an organization set up to ease sufferings during wartime, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has evolved into a mini-government, providing full services even in peacetime.

“It’s a very straightforward organization. We’re not charitable because we don’t say, ‘Can we ask for money?’” PRC Chair Richard “Dick” Gordon said in an interview with the Inquirer.

“We don’t provide doctors but we have doctors during calamities but they are volunteers. We have doctors in the blood bank and we have a lot of nurses,” he said.

But Red Cross is not just about bloodletting and providing ambulances, although these are stressed because of its beginnings in the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the additional protocols, statutes, and those of the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Gordon said.

“Because there are wars, we give blood. So the Red Cross went into that because it alleviates human suffering. During disasters, such as earthquakes, civil wars, tsunamis—the Red Cross is there,” said Gordon, a former senator and mayor of Olongapo City.

The PRC has 22 blood centers, which are among the 32 centers in the country that provide safe blood to victims. The PRC has 65 blood collection units, more than the government’s blood collection capacity, and they are allowed by the state to test and collect blood for banking.

The Red Cross is an independent, impartial and humanitarian organization whose work is anchored on the principle of unity that is older than the United Nations.

Its symbol, a red cross on a white field, and other similar symbols, such as a red crescent (for Muslims) or red crystal (for Israel), means the bearers cannot be harmed. As such, they are allowed to care for the wounded or visit prisoners and help other victims of armed conflicts.

We have to be ready

The Philippines has to be prepared, as disasters are becoming bigger, Gordon said.

Among the most feared disasters, he said, is a powerful earthquake hitting Metro Manila. The metropolis has a population density of 18,650 people per square kilometer (latest figure available), compared to Central Luzon’s 450 people/sq km and Calabarzon’s 750 people/sq km.

Gordon cited a Japanese study that projects casualties of at least 1.2 million residents if a big one hits Metro Manila. The study expects up to 1,000 10-to-30-story buildings and up to 200 30-to-60-story buildings to collapse.

“[We] have to be ready for that,” Gordon said.

The Red Cross came to the aid of the victims of the 1990 earthquake in Cabanatuan. It also aided survivors of the sinking of the MV Doña Paz, which collided with the MT Vector on Dec. 20, 1987, off Mindoro Island, killing 4,375 passengers—the biggest peacetime maritime disaster in the world. The Red Cross was also there for the survivors of the sinking of the MV Princess of the Stars on June 21, 2008. The vessel capsized off the coast of San Fernando, Romblon, at the height of Typhoon “Frank,” killing 100 passengers and leaving 500 missing.

Gordon said the Red Cross also provided humanitarian assistance to the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the communist and Muslim insurgency wars and government military operations against terrorist groups.

Like mother

Gordon credits his mother, former Olongapo City Mayor Amelia Gordon, for his 45 years of service in PRC, which is 65 years old. It was she who taught him to have compassion for the poor, he said.

Amelia Gordon served in PRC for 63 years. She adopted more than 50 children, changing the lives of thousands more children by establishing the Boys and Girls Home, which provides shelter and opportunity for orphaned Filipino children of American descent. For her work, she received the Pearl S. Buck International Woman Award, becoming one of only three Filipinos to receive the honor. The other two were the late President Corazon Aquino and Rosalinda Wee.

Gordon said that when he was chosen for the highest Red Cross award, he refused it because his mother was still alive and still chair of PRC. Amelia Gordon died in 2009 at the age of 89.

Sustainable development

Gordon aims to expand PRC’s readiness to respond to disasters. PRC now has ambulances in nearly 100 chapters, two amphibian boats (which serve as mother ships for dispatch help during floodings), field hospitals and tents.

Although PRC accepts donations to sustain its operations, it gives contributions to Red Cross organizations of other countries hit by disasters. It gave $25,000 to help victims of Hurricane “Katrina” in the United States in 2005; $85,000 to help Indonesian and $10,000 in aid for Pakistani earthquake victims; $20,000 in assistance for earthquake victims in China; and $15,000 in aid for earthquake victims in Burma. Its biggest contribution was $2.4 million, given to help the victims of last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

PRC’s funding comes from donations during disasters, but Gordon tries to raise money for the chapters all year round. When he was still senator, he gave part of his priority development assistance fund (PDAF) allotment to PRC. Today PRC has a budget of $800 million.

Phases of response

PRC’s response to disasters, Gordon said, comes in phases: preparedness, rescue, relief, and rehabilitation.

Gordon aims to make every barangay in the country ready for any disaster.

“With 44 volunteers per barangay (one team leader plus 43 members), we will be able to predict, plan, prepare and cope with every situation.  Everyone has a role to play,” Gordon said.

When disaster strikes, PRC mobilizes disaster equipment—amphibian vehicles, ambulances, rescue trucks, rubber boats, aluminum boats—to take people to safety.

After a disaster, PRC distributes relief—food, blankets and sleeping pads, water and clothing.

Once the disaster has passed, PRC helps rebuild communities through housing, livelihood and other social services.

Housing, livelihood

Since 2005, Gordon said, PRC has built or rehabilitated more than 44,000 homes in about 40 provinces for victims of typhoons, floods, landslides and other disasters. It has spent more than P1.2 billion on these housing projects, Gordon said.

Money for housing projects comes from funds given by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements, other Red Cross societies all over the world, international humanitarian aid agencies, corporate donors and other private donors.

The houses can range in size from 24 sq m to 100 sq m, depending on the size of the property. They may be made of wood or concrete, depending on what material is suitable for the area and on funds.

Gordon said the houses were designed to maintain the dignity and privacy of the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries help build the houses, he said.

For livelihood, PRC helps disaster victims learn and get into soap-making, candle-making, and food preparation.

PRC is well known for its medical assistance program. Only recently, PRC helped a 4-year-old girl in Isabela, Niel Lomboy, get surgery that gave her an anus. With PRC’s help, 8-year-old Joshua Asumen of Surigao del Norte has had surgery for the removal of a facial mass at the Philippine General Hospital. He is being prepared for a second surgery.

Great organization

Gordon’s four children are also active in the Red Cross and regular blood donors. His youngest grandchild, aged 4, helps in packaging relief for disaster victims.

“This is a great organization,” Gordon said. “Every kid should join it. We have Red Cross Youth.”

PRC has 2 million volunteers. “We will break the Guinness [World] Record, which at present has 112,000 volunteers for the Sagip Ilog of Gina Lopez,” Gordon said. “We will apply for the Guinness,” he added.

“Everything we do in the Red Cross is for uplifting human dignity,” Gordon said. “In the end, you can see how remarkable their characters change.”

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  • Hipon.pinas

    RESIGN as chairman and CEO of Philippine Red Cross….

    You are the root of its corruption, the entire organization is derailed by your political ambition. Without you in this humanitarian organization Philippine Red Cross will be back to its golden days as the premier humanitarian organization in the Philippines and among the most reputable humanitarian organization in the world.


    • Pindal Main

      Baki di ikaw ang magresign! Gaya ng hipon lason ang laman ng utak mo!!!

    • Oscar

       I wonder what corruption Hipon is talking about? Never in the long history of the Philippine Red Cross  has so much been done and with so many people receiving assistance to include homes and livelihood projects than under the helm of Chairman Gordon. Please compare also the amount of donations the Red Cross obtained under his leadership if only to show the trust and confidence those generous donors have on the Red Cross and its leadership.l I am afraid Hipon is a victim of those  black propaganda peddled around by some people. Please check the facts. Making such a sweep statement devoid of any solid basis is simply trash talk.

    • BenB7

      @Hipon, better sticks to facts so people here can have an objective discussion. It’s important to back up any assertions with facts rather than just condemn. If there is any corruption, what would that be?

  • Johanne Joseph


  • Zenaida Abrera

    Two things made my day today. First is the headline on Cardinal Tagle and second is this article about the Philippine Red Cross. Indeed the Philippine Red Cross has transformed itself from the mere primary blood source we know of it before into a full service humanitarian organization.

    If there is to be any comparison between the Red Cross then and now, today should be the apex of achievement for the Philippine Red Cross. More than just blood, the Red Cross today can stand proud with its achievements. The interview with Chairman and yes, former Senator Gordon (i would vote for him again) has shown me that it is worth my salt to be part of this great humanitarian organization.

    I have seen the Red Cross ever present and ready to respond to all type and forms of emergencies when they occur and while we may want the government to act faster and think better, it gives me great satisfaction that there is a Red Cross i can rely on.

    I remember when a fire hit my backdoor neighbor in late 2010 when i was still living in Quezon City. It was the Red Cross 143 emergency hotline i called and within minutes there were responding trucks straight to our street. When i asked the volunteer fire units who responded how they got the call or alarm to respond, they said the call came from the Red Cross.

    I never imagined Red Cross can be that ready and connected with other units but when it mattered they were there. I have referred people who needed blood and they were never turned away.

    Why ask chairman Gordon to resign? Is he doing such a good job that all you can do is ask him to resign. A sweeping generalization more like from a spoiled brat whose candy has been taken from him. We cannot afford mindless antics and childhood memories of the yesteryears be the measure of what the Red Cross can and must do. It must respond to the ever increasing and more destructive humanitarian chalenges today. I am glad that a prepared volunteer organization through 143, a logistically capable (amphibians, rubber boats, ambulances, emergency response vehicles, tents, etc) and expertly trained personnel comprise of our Philippine Red Cross today.

    Its time we reveal who we are and not hide and cower behind avatars and fictitious names.

    I will work and continue to volunteer for Red Cross because in my book, the diamond years of Red Cross is happening nowadays.

    Proud Red Cross paying member, volunteer and staff!

    Val Aguilar
    Taytay, Rizal

  • Zenaida Abrera

    Sorry i am currently using my mother in law’s laptop! :-)
    With permission Mommy Ned :-)

    val aguilar, proudly married to an Abrera :-)

  • Eusebio Allan Batan Mosqueda

    I believe Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has evolved well to provide for Filipinos in need all over the country and across the World under the watchful stewardship of its current Chairman and CEO Richard J. Gordon. 

    If there is corruption then why are Red Cross organizations from other countries actively engaging PRC with programs ranging from relief and rescue to capacity building for livelihood?  Besides, PRC is not competing to be the premier humanitarian organization unlike what you see the big television networks are doing with each other.

  • Zenaida Abrera

    Btw, was it not Senator Gordon who allocated majority of his PDAF for the purchase of ambulances, equipments and provisioning of blood for indigents.

    When an elected official shows that our money is invested better with the Red Cross in the form of humanitarian assistance and not waiting sheds and ghost projects and livelihood programs, are we not better off.

    There are 24 senators and over 250 congressmen, how many among them gave a portion of their PDAF to the Red Cross.

    What golden age are we returning to? When Red Cross had no ambulances, no rubber boats, no emergency rescue vehicles, no amphibians, no ERU and OpCen..

    Its like the the united nations at Red Cross today with foreign national societies from australia, germany, spain, finland, qatar and the IFRC all holding office at the Philippine Red Cross NHQ because the fundamental principle has been established by Chairman Gordon: TRUST and INTEGRITY.

    Even the Australian Aid supported “alternatibong pangkabuhayan” program for those affected by typhoon pedring in Pampanga has shown that for every P1K of aid, earnings of Php 300 were realized.

    More than just helping the vulnerable, the Philippine Red Cross today provides livelihood and a means out of poverty.

    This is all because of a strong willed and focused leadership of a visionary Filipino who dreams that someday we will all be enabled and ennobled!

    Maybe its time we lift those blinders and see that for all its worth, whatever political capital Chairman Gordon has, he has used them full square to respond to the needs of our people.

  • Bheng Jonatas

    I have read the article from top to bottom. At one paragraph, it says “he gave part of his priority development assistance fund (PDAF) allotment to PRC”. If he is “to corrupt his pork barrel” why give it to Philippine Red Cross and not to some “ghost” projects where he can easily get away with it.

    Clearly, you posted without thinking. Or you “thought” without knowing your facts. 

    I would rate your efforts “HIPON” as nice try, try again some other time.

    Before I forget, before 2004 Philippine Red Cross is known only as a Blood Donation Organization. 2004 onwards, you be the judge of what Red Cross is now. And just so you know the Chair and CEO from 2004 onwards is none other that the person you call on to resign.

    • BenB7

      To answer you question, giving pork barrel to Red Cross has a big payback in the form of EPALISM. If you don’t agree, just look at any Red Cross ambulance next time you see one on the road. Or check out any Red Cross poster or even their website and you’ll see what I mean. I’m giving facts that anyone who is not biased can check with (I disagree with HIPON dishing out baseless condemnations unless backed with facts). I once thought Red Cross was different from governments agencies in this regard (Epalism). It is not.

      • Bheng Jonatas

        if you look closely enough all ambulances were declared ACQUIRED THRU THE EFFORTS OF SEN. DICK GORDON. EFFORTS… meaning he solicited for it during his time when he was Senator and at the same time Chairman and CEO of Philippine Red Cross.

        on their website, of course you can he see his face because he is their Chairman and CEO.

        BTW Philippine Red Cross is not under any government agency nor a government agency. And currently Richard Gordon is not a politician.Thus he is excempted from the anti-epal law :D

  • Isa Lan

    I wonder, would the board of the Philippines Red Cross continuously vote for it’s current Chairman Richard J. Gordon 3 times in a row, as it’s chairman, if corruption was really present? Or better still, why does he still have the board’s vote of confidence? Primarily because Chairman Dick Gordon continues to perform his duties well. And as to his genuine love of service to and for the people, I can personally claim that he does what needs to be done for the needy, regardless of stature in life, or not even knowing the persons he helps personally, HE JUST DELIVERS THE NEEDS AND THE SERVICES. 

    Sometime in 2009, my father needed blood for his bleeding intestines. There was no blood available in the hospital or in the Red Cross Blood Bank. The doctor has advised me to contact then Sen. Richard Gordon for help in accessing the blood we needed. I did not know Sen. Gordon then, but when I called him at midnight, he personally answered my call. And after asking me what I needed, told me, he would ask his Executive Assistant to coordinate with me and the Red Cross. By 3am, the blood was available.  Now, which chairman, or politician will personally and gladly answer a call for help from a person he has not even met, in the middle of the night, and give what was needed in a span of 3 hours? Now you tell me, will a person who you say is corrupt even care to bat an eyelash, if he really was corrupt?   

  • Cora Cocoy Edong Llosala

    Being a
    true blue Philippine Red Cross volunteer, Chariman Dick Gordon donated his full
    talent fee from the television advertisement that he did for Safeguard to the PRC
    to sustain the organization’s operations. 

    • BenB7

      The fact is this was done before the presidential elections. So it cannot be said he did not benefit from it. In fact, when other politicians come out in TV ads before elections, whether they got paid or not by advertiser, you would think differently. In other countries, this would be frowned upon.

      • Bheng Jonatas

         The Presidential elections was last 2010, The commercial was last 2008, i do not see how he could have benefited from it. Just so you have an idea, the commercial was about hand-washing.

  • Cora Cocoy Edong Llosala

    Ikaw “Hipon” ano ba ang nagawa mo sa Philippine Red Cross? Si Dick Gordon ba ang dapat mag-resign?

  • Horst Manure

    Red Cross look after themselves first and only pay some of the money collected NEVER donate to them 

    • BenB7

      @Glen, it may be unfair to make statements like that without backing them up with facts. Please be specific. There are many unnamed faceless people in the Red Cross that give and sacrifice for others without receiving credit in the media or their names labeled on Red Cross assets. These unnamed volunteers are the true heroes. They give and expect nothing in return. They are not running for public office seeking to win brownie points. Let’s not paint the whole Red Cross as such. It’s because we have people like that we the people are offended when politicians use NGOs/Charities to further their political interests.

  • Lester Co

    Eversince before he became a politician Chairman Richard Gordon had been taking active roles in rescue, relief and rehabilitation in various disasters, he revolutionized reforms for a well rounded PRC rather than from being just a mere blood center.

  • BenB7

    If pork barrel was given to Red Cross from former Senator Gordon, then he should not have personalized the ambulances and other Red Cross property with labels “Sen. Dick Gordon”. EPALISM hurts the organization when people think it is being used for political purposes.

    EPALISM should be banned in NGOs. Not only in government offices. It’s public funds that’s going into these charities so credit should not go to one person especially if they wear the hat of a politician seeking election. It is alarming pork barrel entered Red Cross just before the last presidential elections. In may appear as political money laundering.

    No wonder the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism came out with an article regarding the misuse of pork barrel funds in charities, there seems to be an EPAL angle to it all that makes it all the more suspect.

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