MANILA - A former Secretary of the Department of Health on Thursday said that the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) has been procuring supplies and medical equipment for the DOH even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Esperanza Cabral said she has knowledge that the PS-DBM has been buying medical equipment such as CT-scan machines around three years ago or so.
“I think previous to the pandemic, the PS-DBM was already procuring medical supplies and equipment for the DOH. I remember, when I was doing some consulting work with the DOH, they did tell me that the PS-DBM was going to procure CT-scans, other sophisticated equipment for the DOH, instead of them,” Cabral said in an interview on ANC's Dateline Philippines.
Cabral said that when she asked health officials about it, she was told that they were only obeying orders.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has been investigating the procurement by PS-DBM of supplies for the government's efforts against the pandemic, particularly from the private firm Pharmally.
The panel released its initial findings that include recommendation to charge Pharmally executives, some government officials, and former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang over the pandemic supply transactions.
“I’m sure the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee know the law much better than I do. But as a person who is not a lawyer, I certainly agree that the findings show that these people seem to be liable for the charges that Sen. [Richard] Gordon wants them to be charged with,” said Cabral.
The Senate committee's initial findings said that Yang, former budget Undersecretary Christopher Lloyd Lao, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Warren Liong, and Pharmally's executives violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The committee also said that Pharmally's Krizle Grace Mago and the firm's secretary and treasurer Mohit Dargani committed estafa.
Lao and Liong also allegedly committed fraud, according to the Senate committee. Liong was a former director at the PS-DBM.
Yang, Pharmally's Linconn Ong, and Mago, meanwhile, also allegedly committed perjury.
Liong, PS-DBM employee Melvin Ian Tanquintic, and retired agency officer Jorge Mendoza allegedly falsified public documents under the Revised Penal Code, the committee added.
“The necessary end is for us to know who the masterminds are because these people are not going to be able to do what they’ve done just by themselves,” said Cabral.
Gordon on Tuesday alleged that the questionable deals that government got into with Pharmally got Duterte's approval, saying it was so far "clear and categorical" that the president had ties with the transactions.
At least five former health secretaries, including Cabral, the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), and various medical groups have asked Duterte to stop blocking the Senate panel's investigation.
“We are frustrated that up to now we are not able to get people on the bench so to speak at the hearing to tell us the truth. We are frustrated they have, including the private individuals, who appear at the hearing, they really just stone wall everything. But yet we are encouraged that there are some things that come out that are enough for senators to say there are crimes that have been committed and that they should be charged,” said Cabral.
“We hope very soon these charges will be made,” she added.
If charges are not filed, Cabral said, “Let’s just all vote wisely next year.”