Ombudsman probe vs Duque takes toll on DOH morale: Vergeire

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 19 2020 11:40 AM | Updated as of Jun 19 2020 01:52 PM

MANILA — An Office of the Ombudsman investigation on Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other health officials has taken a toll on the morale of the Department of Health staff, a DOH spokesperson said.

“Yung morale talaga ay bumaba dahil syempre nakikita natin na talaga namang nagtatrabaho ang ating mga kawani tapos ito nga merong ganito,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters Friday morning.

(We really have low morale because as you can see, our people are really working and then this happened.)

The Ombudsman on Wednesday announced that it will be investigating Duque and other DOH officials for their lapses in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Duque has long been under fire for various issues such as accusations of overpriced test kits and equipment. However, the Ombudsman also complained that their investigators were given the “runaround by some DOH officials and personnel by referring us from one department or office to another.”

Vergeire pointed out that in the last 2 years, the DOH has been handling various health crises, from the measles, dengue and polio outbreaks last year to the Taal eruption and the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

“Napakalaking kalungkutan ang inabot ng ating mga tauhan ng DOH nung narinig natin na bigla tayong iniimbestigahan ng Ombudsman at nagkakaroon pa ng allegations na ito,” she said.

(Our people at DOH were really saddened when we heard that we were being investigated by the Ombudsman.)

She said they are hoping that the government would work as a collective whole and that it won’t be “divisive,” especially when it is handling a pandemic.

NO LEAVE OF ABSENCE

Asked if Duque will take a leave of absence during the investigation, as suggested by a senator, Vergeire said there was no need for that.

“Hindi pa natin nakikita 'yung pangangailangan para mag leave si Secretary Duque para doon sa imbestigasyon na isinasagawa ng Ombudsman,” she said.

(We have not yet seen the need for Secretary Duque to take a leave of absence for the investigation being done by the Ombudsman.)

Vergeire revealed that they have not yet even received a formal communication from the Ombudsman about the investigation although they are already preparing for it and are ready to cooperate.

She said those saying that the undersecretaries can just do the work of Duque should understand that they need his leadership.

“We have our full support to the Secretary and we still think he should be retained,” she said.

She also dismissed rumors that some employees have left the DOH over the controversy.

REQUESTS COMPLIED WITH

Vergeire insisted that they were able to give the Ombudsman the information they requested back in March.

She added they have no idea who will be investigated besides Duque.

She said the Ombudsman might have felt they were being given the runaround when they requested information which the DOH had to relay to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

The health official pointed out that it is part of their process.

She did not say what documents were requested by the Ombudsman but that they will release more information during the probe.