Lacson questions DOH over allegedly overpriced ambulances

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 25 2021 09:44 PM

Duque vows to investigate 'syndicates' inside agency

MANILA—Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Friday questioned the Department of Health's (DOH) purchase of "overpriced" ambulance units in 2019 worth P2.5 million each, which a health official confirmed being distributed nationwide.

During the Senate's Blue Ribbon Committee hearing, Lacson said the ambulance units were part of the agency's Health Facilities Enhancement Program.

"Mayroon kaming nakuna from reliable sources na mukhang may overpricing din of ambulance units with medical equipment," Lacson said.

(We got word from reliable sources there are overpriced ambulance units.)

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said P245 million was allocated for the units in 2019, and 841 units were distributed nationwide.

Lacson said a local government unit (LGU) bought the same ambulance unit at only P1.5 million. He also laid out comparative price points from the LGU, the private sector (P1.65 million), and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (P1.585 million).

Duque said the DOH ambulances featured at least 30 medical equipment, hence the higher cost.

"Ang bumili po nito ay Calabarzon, mayroon po kaming comparative figures and pictures ng mga ambulansya . . . ’Yung nakalagay sa binili ng Region 4-A, 30 klase ng equipment ang mayroon dito," he said.

(Calabarzon bought the units. We have comparative figures and pictures of the said ambulance, which has 30 types of medical equipment in it.)

But Lacson said the LGU ambulances were outfitted with the same 30 equipment.

" ’Yung LGU . . . nag-procure ng sarili, kinopya niya ’yung dinonate ng DOH. Parehong-pareho. Ang hindi kasama ng donation ay yung tinatawag na automated external defibrillator . . . Lumalabas na mayroong overpriced na P1 million per unit," the senator said.

(The LGU bought the ambulance on its own, copying the DOH donation. The difference is what's called an automated external defibrillator. It turns out the overpricing was at P1 million per unit.)

"Ito po ’yung gustong maliwanagan ng kumite. Bakit na lamang kapag gobyerno ang bibili, kapag DOH, PS-DBM, bakit napakamahal ng presyo ninyo kumpara sa iba?" he added, alleging that a syndicate might be running inside their agency.

(This is what the committee wants cleared. Every time the government buys these things, the DOH, the PS-DBM, why do they always have to be so expensive compared to other equipment?)

Lacson added that should the overpricing of P1 million per ambulance unit be true, the government already lost P841 million.

He alleged that this excess money went to someone.

"Nabanggit na . . . Sana inaasahan ko na gagawan niyo ng paraan para ma-uproot, ma-expose, at mahinto ’yung sindikato sa DOH . . . Alam naman nila na mayroong nag-e-exist diyan na hindi kanais-nais, lalo na sa area ng procurement," Lacson said.

(It's been mentioned. I'm expecting the DOH to uproot, to expose, to stop the criminal syndicate in the department. They know unscrupulous elements are present there, especially in the area of procurement.)

Duque said the DOH would submit the details of the procurement to the Senate panel. He also vowed to investigate the incident and whether a syndicate is inside DOH.

The Blue Ribbon panel earlier confirmed that the DOH transferred P42 billion to the Department of Budget and Management's Procurement Service without proper documents.

Senate investigations also found that a portion of the funds was used to purchase allegedly overpriced face masks and RT-PCR test kits from Pharmally, a corporation that used fake addresses in its incorporation documents and linked to fraudulent activities in Taiwan.

Video courtesy of the Senate of the Philippines