MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday warned businesses against profiteering and hoarding essential medical equipment as the country battles the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
This, as he instructed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the allegation that a local supplier had been overpricing COVID-19 testing kits and machines, and delayed the delivery of these medical equipment to the country.
In a televised briefing, Duterte said hoarding is an unacceptable act by businessmen, especially during a pandemic.
"Alam mo, itong mga p*t*ng*n*ng negosyanteng ito, it's really an issue of humanity and their greed. 'Yung hoarding ano, you cannot, it's part of the business practices which you may call not even obnoxious, it's repulsive to the human mind when you start to think about it," he said.
Duterte, however, clarified that the government will tackle the issue in a legal manner.
"But let's look at it on what it is legally, sans the maybe 'yung mga suspicion," he said.
"If the NBI has the probable cause, then go ahead. I still believe in what accrues to, accruing to government people working, the presumption of regularity in the performance of duties," Duterte added.
Former health secretary and now Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin on Sunday said a local supplier had been overpricing COVID-19 testing kits and machines, and delayed the delivery of these medical equipment to the country.
Garin said last week in a speech before House members that a couple she tagged as “V.E.” were claiming to be the exclusive distributors of testing kits and machines in the Philippines.
She said that the local supplier also padded the cost of these medical equipment by up to three times the manufacturers’ price and had been hoarding the testing kits and machines.
Last week, the Senate quizzed the DOH and the Department of Budget Management over the alleged irregularities in the procurement of PPEs for frontliners, as well as the allegations that the COVID-19 testing machines and kits bought by government were overpriced.
Senator Panfilo Lacson last Tuesday questioned the DOH and the DBM in a Senate hearing why they bought COVID-19 testing machines and swabbing kits for more than twice the price of similar equipment bought by private companies.
A private firm allegedly bought nucleic acid extractors needed to process coronavirus tests for P1.75 million each, while the DOH, through the DBM, got the machines for P4 million a piece.