Lacson open to talking to Duque amid conflict of interest claims

Robie de Guzman   •   August 2, 2019   •   984

(L-R) Senator Panfilo Lacson and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday said he is open to a dialogue with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III who is facing allegations of conflict of interest.

Lacson made the statement in response to Duque’s remark that he is trying to reach out to the senator to clarify his claims.

READ: Duque to reach out to Lacson on conflict of interest claims

However, rather than having a dialogue, the senator believes it would be better for Duque to explain the issue to the public.

“At the end of the day its between him and God, it’s between him and his conscience, it’s between him and the public,” Lacson told reporters in a briefing on Thursday.

Lacson recently revealed that Duque’s family-owned Doctors Pharmaceuticals company bagged government contracts in 2016 and 2017. He also said that Duque’s family owned the building being leased by PhilHealth in Pangasinan.

Duque has repeatedly denied the allegations, insisting that he already divested from his family’s firm.

The senator also bared that the health chief has been setting up meetings with several congressmen who are allies of former President and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

It was during Arroyo’s presidency when Duque was appointed as Health secretary in 2005.

“Ang impormasyon ko nakikiusap siya sa kaalyado ng dating Pangulong Arroyo na magkaroon ng pagpupulong sa mga kongresista, kung bakit hindi ko alam,” Lacson said.

(Based on the information I received he is talking with the allies of former President Arroyo to have a meeting with congressmen. Why? I don’t know.)

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is set to investigate Duque and other issues dogging the Department of Health and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Phillhealth).

Lacson hopes that Duque will attend the inquiry to shed some light on these issues, particularly the alleged corruption within Philhealth.

“It seems na meron talagang mafia-like group sa PhilHealth na nagmamanipula ng pondo,” he said.

(It seems there really is a mafia-like group in PhilHealth that manipulates funds.)

Lacson said his exposé about the anomalies in PhilHealth is in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s challenge to fight corruption, which the chief executive emphasized in his fourth State of the Nation Address last July 22. (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

Lacson backs appointment of Villanueva as PDEA chief

Robie de Guzman   •   May 27, 2020

Senator Panfilo Lacson

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday lauded the appointment of Wilkins Villanueva as the new director general of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

In a statement, Lacson described Villanueva as a “good and professional officer who is fit for the job,” and noted his “long career in drug enforcement.”

“The President couldn’t have appointed a more qualified head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, having served our country for nearly 20 years with the Philippine National Police Narcotics Group and with the PDEA,” he said.

Lacson, a former national police chief, expressed confidence that Villanueva can handle his task of going after drug suspects amid challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.

“With the challenge of going after drug personalities amid the new normal posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, he indeed has his work cut out for him,” he said.

“I look forward to working with him, being the Senate Finance Subcommittee Chair and Sponsor of the PDEA and Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) budgets, among others,” he added.

Villanueva will take over the post previously held by Aaron Aquino, who was assigned by President Rodrigo Duterte to lead the Clark International Airport.

Prior to his designation to PDEA’s top post, Villanueva led the PDEA Northern Mindanao.

Duque: Pagbubukas ng klase sa Agosto, ligtas basta’t matitiyak ang minimum health standards

Robie de Guzman   •   May 26, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Naniniwala si Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III na ligtas ang pagbubukas ng klase sa Agosto 24 basta’t maipatutupad ang kinakailangang minimum health standards sa mga paaralan.

Inihayag ni Duque ang kanyang opinyon nang hingan siya ng pahayag ni Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go sa isinagawang virtual hearing ng Senate Committee on Health and Demography ngayong Martes.

“Pag-aralan po namin maigi ito pero sa tingin po namin, ligtas naman po kung bubuksan natin ang klase by August 24. Ang kinakailangan po rito, siguraduhin lamang na ang lahat ng ating minimum standards for health ay nakatalaga,” ani Duque.

Kabilang aniya sa minimum health standards na kailangang masunod ay ang pagkakaroon ng physical distancing, palagiang paghuhugas at pagdi-disinfect ng mga kamay at pagkakaroon ng thermal scanner upang ma-check kung mataas ang temperatura ng katawan ng isang tao.

“Tingin ko magiging ligtas naman po ang pagbubukas ng ating pong mga paaralan at meron din po tayong evidence-based na atin pong titingnan gaya ng ginagawa po ng IATF,” ani Duque.

“We will continue to evaluate yung mga bilang ng mga kaso down to the barangay levels,” dagdag pa niya.

Una nang sinabi ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte sa kanyang public address noong Lunes ng gabi na hindi siya papayag na muling magbalik-eskwela ang mga mag-aaral hangga’t walang natutuklasang bakuna kontra novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Sa paglilinaw naman ng Malakanyang ngayong Martes, ang pagkakaroon ng face-to-face o physical classes in classroom ang tinutulan ng Pangulo at tuloy pa rin naman ang pagbubukas ng academic schoolyear 2020-2021 sa Agosto.

Kung mananatili pa rin ang banta ng COVID-19 bandang Agosto, ipatutupad naman ng pamahalaan ang flexible blended learning sa lahat ng antas.

Kabilang sa paraang ito ang paggamit ng telebisyon at radyo upang maipagpatuloy ang edukasyon ng mga mag-aaral, lalo na sa mga nasa liblib na lugar at hindi maaabot ng internet.

“Kung hindi po talaga dumating ang new normal, at hindi mai-lift ang community quarantines, di po ibig sabihin na di na mag-aaral ang ating mga kabataan. Mayroon po tayong tinatawag na blended learning sangayon kay Sec. Briones ng DepEd, gagamitin po natin ang telebisyon, ang radio at ang internet para ipagpatuloy po ang edukasyon ng ating mga kabataan,” ani Roque.

Suportado naman ni Duque ang mga plano ng Department of Education (DepEd) upang maseguro ang kaligtasan at kalusugan ng mga mag-aaral.

Una nang sinabi ng DepEd na bukod sa pagsasagawa ng online classes, pinag-aaralan na rin nila sa ngayon ang iba’t ibang learning tools, work arrangement para sa mga guro at maging ang sistema ng assessment sa mga mag-aaral. – RRD (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Duterte defends DOH amid controversy on ‘overpriced’ PPEs

Marje Pelayo   •   May 26, 2020

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)

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