MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday expressed doubts that face shields expire, even as the Department of Health (DOH) has explained that medical-grade face shields have a specific shelf life.
Responding to a revelation in Friday's Senate hearing that Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. tampered with dates of medical-grade supply meant for health workers on the frontlines of the pandemic, Duterte said he finds it hard to believe that a piece of plastic would expire.
"Expiration? Mahirapan akong mag-ano ng expiry. Medisina siguro. Pero itong, makihiram lang ho ng plastik," he claimed while holding a face shield.
(Expiration? I find it hard to believe the expiry. Medicines, maybe. But this piece of plastic?)
"Paano ito mag-expire? Unless abusuhin mo, itapon tapon mo, pero kung isuot mo lang, magandang pagkalagay, ganoon, paanong mag-expire 'yan? Mag-expire, but maybe in about, it will take you about 10, 15 years. Ayan mag-expire 'yan dahil sa scratches," Duterte claimed.
(How will this expire? Maybe if you abuse it, throw it around, but if you just wear it, put it nicely, how will this expire? It will expire but it will take you about 10, 15 years. It will expire because of the scratches.)
Duterte also accused Senator Richard Gordon of simply coming up with anything just to criticize his administration.
"Itong sina Gordon, obvious na wala nang ibang mahanap na pupuwedeng ibato na issue against officials of the executive. Eh ako I am not bothered at all," he alleged.
(It is obvious that Gordon and the others cannot find any other issue they can throw against the officials of the executive. But I am not bothered at all.)
But the Department of Health (DOH) has explained that medical-grade face shields have a certain shelf life, as the quality of the foams attached to the product degrade over time.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque echoed this explanation in the same recorded briefing that Duterte held.
The ones that medical frontliners use are different from the ones being sold publicly, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier pointed out.
"Just like any medical commodity, mayroon din pong tinatawag na shelf life. Ito pong face shields na binibili namin is not for the community," Vergeire explained in a public briefing.
(Any medical commodity has what we call shelf life. These face shields we are referring to is not for the community.)
A witness supposedly working at a warehouse run by Pharmally on Friday revealed that management asked workers to replace certificate stickers on face shields from 2020 to this year as part of the delivery ordered by DOH.
According to the warehouse staff, they repacked face shields that were already yellowing, folded, wet, old, and even dirty.
Pharmally’s Krizle Grace Mago, meanwhile, confirmed that they changed certification stickers on the face shields.
Pharmally, which bagged billions worth of contracts with the government for allegedly overpriced personal protective equipment at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, is facing inquiry at the Senate.
Duterte has denied overpricing in the administration's procurement of anti-coronavirus masks and face shields, which the Senate is scrutinizing.
He has also been lashing out at Gordon in public speeches after the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee began grilling former Presidential economic adviser Michael Yang and former Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao, the president's former election lawyer, over allegedly shady deals involving state funds.
Yang and Lao are among those being linked to the allegedly anomalous procurement of overpriced pandemic supplies.