'Wala pong nawala': Amid conspiracy allegations, Vergeire says cancer fund intact

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 09 2023 02:23 PM

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MANILA — The Department of Health on Thursday said the P809-million cancer fund remained intact, despite allegations of conspiracy. 

On ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire explained that instead of having the funds centrally procured, they had to directly transfer the money to hospitals to expedite the process, citing delays last year.

That method, Vergeire said, was approved by the National Integrated Cancer Control Council, the highest policy-making body for cancer control in the country, of which she was a member at the time.

"Dahil nga po 'yung ating pinabibili dati natin ng gamot 'yung mechanism natin dati hindi mapayagan ng ating COA (Commission on Audit) because may unliquidated funds 'yung bumibili po ng gamot natin, so we had to have another means of procurement," Vergeire said. "Wala pong nawala dito sa prosesong ito."

(Because the mechanism we used to buy the medicine from was not allowed by our COA because the body buying our medicine had unliquidated funds, we had to have another means of procurement. Nothing was lost in the process.)

Dr. Clarito Cairo Jr., the program manager of the cancer control division of the DOH's Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, has alleged the funds were transferred to 20 specialized public hospitals instead of 31, which he said in his complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman was highly disadvantageous to the government and a grave disservice to cancer patients.

Vergeire pointed out the hospitals were the ones sending the number of patients and medicines they need to determine the amount of funding they would receive. 

She added that other hospitals also received another form of cancer funds that they can use to procure medicines. 

Cairo also claimed the bureau's director issued a memorandum on June 3, 2022, over the sub-allotment of Cancer and Supportive-Palliative Medicines Access Program funds before the National Integrated Cancer Control Council decided on June 20, 2022.

"The transfer of funds or the sub-allotment of funds can't push through without the approval of each single entity going up," he said.

Vergeire reiterated that the process was "aboveboard," saying the National Integrated Cancer Control Council had been presented with options on how to procure the cancer medicines during that time.

"Gusto ko lang pong sabihin sa ating mga kababayan, lahat po ng ginawa naming proseso ukol dito sa pagda-download ng pera natin was aboveboard. This was through the National Integrated Cancer Control Council," she said.

"Sinilip po nila itong pagda-download dito sa mga ospital na ito para mas mapabilis."

(I just want to say that everything we did in the process of downloading our money was aboveboard. This was through the National Integrated Cancer Control Council. They determined that downloading the funds through the hospitals would speed up the process.)

Vergeire said they have yet to receive any document regarding Cairo's complaint before the Ombudsman. 

However, she said they already requested "pertinent documents" on the allegations.