Duterte defends DOH amid controversy on ‘overpriced’ PPEs

Marje Pelayo   •   May 26, 2020   •   221

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has defended the Department of Health (DOH) for the alleged ‘overpriced’ procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs) amounting to P1,100 per piece. 

During a late-night briefing in Malacañang, the Chief Executive responded to criticisms by some lawmakers saying he gave his approval to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release funds for the purchase of medical supplies including the PPEs may it be high priced as he ordered concerned agencies not to recycle PPEs.

“I gave him the instruction and I admit it in public now. [It told him:] Do everything you can. Whether it’s cheap or it’s expensive, just go ahead and do something about it,” the President said as he recalled his directive to Secretary Francisco Duque III on the procurement of medical supplies.

Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao, speaking on the procurement, said they were just abiding by the international standards on the procurement of medical equipment especially the PPEs.

“This is the standard by DOH and the FDA. (They’re of) international standards and we’re following that. We don’t go below (because) the company can be sued. We can be sued,” Lao told the President to which he agreed.

“Buhay iyan. Tama iyan. Iyon ang binili ninyo. Walang problema [It’s life that we’re concerned at so it’s just right that you purchase such type. No problem],” the President told his Cabinet. MNP (with inputs from Rosalie Coz)

Ombudsman probe won’t affect DOH, COVID-19 task force credibility – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   June 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Thursday expressed confidence that the Office of the Ombudsman’s investigation into the alleged irregularities in the Department of Health’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis won’t affect the credibility of the agency and the government task force.

In a televised briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that at this point, health officials and other personalities involved in the probe are “presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

“Kung mapapansin ninyo naman po ang IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) po talaga, lahat po ng departamento, it’s a whole government approach, it’s not just the DOH although the DOH po has the position of leadership,” Roque said.

The Palace official also relayed that President Rodrigo Duterte believes that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III will be able to respond to the allegations being investigated by the Ombudsman.

“Kampante po ang president na masasagot po ni Secretary Duque lahat po ‘yang alegasyon sa Ombudsman,” he said.

He added that the president “has time and again expressed his continuing trust and confidence” in Duque whose leadership at the health agency has been beset by controversies.

The Office of the Ombudsman earlier said it will launch an investigation into the supposed irregularities in the DOH’s response against COVID-19.

The probe would cover the purchase of coronavirus disease test kits, delayed procurement of personal protective equipment and other supplies for healthcare workers and the rising number of fatalities among medical workers amid the public health crisis, as well as the delay in the release of financial assistance to healthcare workers who have fallen severely ill and died due to coronavirus disease.

Duque earlier said he is ready to face the Ombudsman probe. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Ombudsman probes Duque, DOH execs over alleged COVID-19 response anomalies

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 17, 2020

Ombudsman Samuel Martires on Wednesday (June 17) ordered an investigation on Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque and other DOH officials over alleged irregularities in the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response.

“I directed the creation of two more investigating teams who will jointly investigate alleged irregularities and anomalies committed by DOH officials and employees, including Health Sec. Francisco Duque, in relation to the response of the DOH during this pandemic,” he said.

Martires also tasked the investigating team to file complaints against any DOH official or employee who would refuse to cooperate with the investigation.

Among the accusations to be investigated include:

  1. Purchase of 100 thousand test kits by the Department of Health
  2. Delayed procurement of Personal Protective Equipment and other medical gears necessary for the protection of healthcare workers
  3. Alleged lapses and irregularities that led to the death of medical workers
  4. Rising number of deaths and infected medical frontliners
  5. Inaction in the release processing of benefits and financial assistance of “fallen” and infected medical frontliners; and
  6. Confusing and delayed reporting of COVID-19 related deaths and confirmed cases.

Malacañang said it respects the decision of the Ombudsman to conduct an investigation on Duque and other DOH officials.

“We will let the process run its course as we enjoin Secretary Duque & the entire DOH bureaucracy to cooperate with the investigation and respect the orders of the OMB,” according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Duque takes responsibility over compensation mess

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 5, 2020

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III said he is taking the responsibility for the delayed compensation for health workers hit by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a tweet, the Duque said it is still his responsibility as the secretary of health to make sure compensations are properly distributed.

The Health Secretary initially put the blame of delayed compensation for the COVID-19 hit health workers on his subordinates, during his talk with President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday morning (June 5).

“Nakakahiya talaga sir, namatayan na nga, nagpawardi-wardi iyong mga tao ko na parang walang sense of urgency. Ang sama-sama po ng loob ko Mr. President (It is a shame, sir, that people are dying and yet my subordinates were dilly-dallying as if they have no sense of urgency. I am really disappointed, Mr. President),” he said.

The DOH already released a joint administrative order to implement the provision of the Bayanihan Law to provide P100,000 benefits to health workers who were badly hit by COVID-19, while P1 million will be given to the families of health workers who already passed away due to the virus.

Duterte has given the DOH until June 9 to provide the financial assistance to the health workers hit with COVID-19. AAC (with report from Aiko Miguel)

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