DOH ready to face probe, even with Duterte ban on Cabinet members

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 14 2021 10:12 AM | Updated as of Oct 14 2021 05:42 PM

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III gives an update to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Palace on October 4, 2021. Richard Madelo, Presidential Photo
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III gives an update to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Palace on October 4, 2021. Richard Madelo, Presidential Photo

MANILA (UPDATE) - Health Secretary Francisco Duque said Thursday he would recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte to allow the attendance of Cabinet members in Senate inquiries if these were less frequent.

Duque, in a Senate hearing Wednesday, said he supports the petition of 45 medical workers' groups signed by former health chiefs calling for accountability after Duterte banned his Cabinet from attending the chamber's legislative inquiries.

"I have discussed this with Senator (Franklin) Drilon if we can make adjustments and I will endorse or recommend to the President, say the frequency of attending the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings," he told ANC's Headstart.

"If it’s not going to be too frequent in a week, say two or more, at least siguro once a week pwede na (maybe at least once a week is OK)."

Duque said he did not miss a Senate hearing on the alleged mismanagement of pandemic funds prior to Duterte's order banning Cabinet officials from the said inquiry.

"Let me tell you that prior to the issuance of memo rider Oct 5... the DOH had a 100 percent attendance. Personally I had attended 10 times of the 10 hearings prior to Oct. 5," he said. 

"I think the questions were relevant and to the point, I had answered to the best of knowledge and with the support of my undersecretaries, assistance secretaries and directors."

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is conducting a probe on the government’s purchase of allegedly overpriced and substandard face masks, face shields and other medical equipment from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.

Duterte has blasted the panel’s conduct of the hearings, calling the investigation a “waste of time.” He has also repeatedly insulted Sen. Richard Gordon, who chairs the committee.

His former economic adviser, Michael Yang, has been linked to the allegedly dubious deals.

Duque denied he was involved in the awarding of contracts to Pharmally, saying his agency transferred funds to the Department of Budget and Management as it has 10 bids and awards committees and was more than capable.

"We were not privy, we weren’t part of the process who the supplier will be," he said.

"If we didn’t do what we needed to do ganun din 'yan, we’ll be in the same hot seat. We trusted PS-DBM (DBM's procurement service) to do what is right, what is legal, to do what is within the bounds of law."

Government has also stopped accepting pending deliveries of face shields after a Pharmally official admitted that the firm had tampered with the expiry dates of their supply, Duque said.

"What we had done with regard to the face shields that the DOH procured via open, transparent, competitive bidding, once the revelation of tampering was made during the Senate Blue Ribbon hearings, I said let’s stop accepting and let’s not pay," he said.

"Ang condition dito we only pay once they had completed deliveries. Hindi po nagbayad ang gobyerno pero pinaiimbetsigahan ko na po ito."

(The condition here is we would only pay once they had completed deliveries. Government did not pay and I'm having this investigated.)

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