MANILA - A lawmaker wants to investigate the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) for allegedly failing to deliver on the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine's (RITM) procurement requests for the construction of a hospital for emerging infectious diseases.
This as the House of Representatives Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, headed by Probinsyano Ako Partylist Rep. Jose “Bonito” Singson Jr., is set to probe on Tuesday the reported mismanagement of over P67 billion in COVID-19 funds by the Department of Health (DOH).
In a statement, Singson said he also wants to look into the state-run PITC during the same inquiry.
Singson said that the PITC, as indicated in a Commission on Audit report, failed in 2017 to help lead the construction of a proposed hospital for emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, although it received from the RITM a total of P126 million for the proposed project.
The P126 million is part of the P11 billion that DOH and other government agencies transferred to the PITC for various procurement activities, he said.
Former Laguna board member Dave Almarinez was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte in that year to head the government-owned trading firm.
"The COA reports gave us a glaring yet sickening visual of how the PITC squandered an opportunity for our country to have a better fighting chance against the COVID-19 pandemic which started in 2020, or three years after the trading firm got the money to implement the projects," said Singson.
Singson said Almarinez must clarify what his firm did to the P11 billion that various government firms and agencies transferred in order to finance important supplies, equipment and infrastructure projects since 2017.
"He should be able to explain how much of the money belonged to DOH? How much and what it did to the bank interests, if any, the PITC got? And why he should remain head of the firm?" said Singson.
On Monday, Makabayan Bloc lawmakers also sought a congressional investigation into the DOH’s alleged inefficiency, incompetence and criminal negligence as cited in a COA report.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Sunday already said that the COA will brief the House on its findings. The House will also call on the DOH to answer.
"We want to get the facts straight from COA and we are particularly concerned because the funds involved were among those allocated under the Bayanihan laws that Congress passed last year," Velasco said.
"The overall objective is to ensure that the billions of pesos Congress had dedicated to COVID-19 response—and any additional funds it provides in future legislation—are spent wisely and effectively," he added.
"The briefing would also serve as a venue for the DOH to explain and account for the pandemic funds mentioned in the COA report," said Velasco.
The Department of Health (DOH) had said the P67 billion flagged by COA is accounted for and denied there was corruption, even as it is "currently addressing... compliance issues and deficiencies".
-- report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News