Ombudsman to send subpoenas to DOH, DBM to track COVID-19 funds

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 19 2020 05:15 PM

Health Secretary Francisco Duque, Ombudsman Samuel Martires and Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado. ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Office of the Ombudsman is set to send subpoenas to the Department of Health and the Department of Budget and Management to track the disbursement of funds for government's COVID-19 response. 

Confirming reports, Ombudsman Samuel Martires said: "Yes DOH and DBM." 

In an interview on CNN Philippines, Martires said his office was sending subpoenas to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado to seek documents in line with the Ombudsman's probe on alleged lapses in the DOH COVID-19 response. 

Avisado earlier said that as of May 28, funds amounting to P353.8 billion have been released to various government agencies for coronavirus response interventions. 

A chunk, nearly P200 billion, was allocated for cash aid to millions of poor Filipino families who lost livelihood because of lockdowns enforced to contain the virus. 

Martires on Wednesday said the Ombudsman was expanding its probe on the DOH COVID-19 response to include Duque and other officials. 

This after several health officials, said Martires, gave Ombudsman investigators the "runaround" after they initiated an inquiry on issues raised over the purchase of COVID-19 test kits even before the lockdown in mid-March.

Among issues to be covered in the wider investigation are:

  •  delays in the procurement of personal protective equipment and other medical gear for health workers
  •  "alleged lapses and irregularities" that caused deaths among health workers
  •  delays in the processing and release of benefits for medical workers who died or got severely ill due to COVID-19 
  •  the "confusing and delayed reporting" of coronavirus cases and deaths. 

On Thursday, Martires called on an unnamed health official to "shut up and just cooperate."