By Mario Casayuran
The Senate leadership Monday referred to its two committees the privilege speech of Senator Panfilo M. Lacson alleged multi-billion-peso medical payment scams at the PhilHealth and a questionable medical supply contracts between the Duque family and the Department of Health (DOH) headed by DOH Secretary Francisco Duque.
Tasked to undertake the probe were the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Senator Richard J. Gordon and the Senate Committee on Health chaired by neophyte Senator Christopher Lawrence ‘’Bong’’ Go.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon was able to convince his colleagues that the lead committee should be the Gordon committee because the issue is on malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance.
In winding up his privilege speech, Lacson stated that his privilege speech be referred to the Go health committee.
Duque had denied the charges against him and members of his family, claiming he had divested himself during the period his family corporations entered into contracts with the national government.
Before the actual Lacson privilege speech, Go said he is willing to investigate the conflict of interest charge against the DOH Secretary if such an allegation has basis.
‘’Subalit I still trust Secretary Duque until it’s proven sufficiently na meron talagang ebidensya at antayin na lang natin ang privilege speech ni Senator Lacson,’’ Go told Senate reporters. (But I still trust Secretary Duque until it is sufficiently proven that there is ample evidence but let us wait for the privilege speech of Senator Lacson.)
‘’I will be fair dito (here),’’ he added.
‘’Ako po kung ano ang interes ng tao, interes ng Filipino, yun po ang mangunguna, managot ang dapat managot kahit magkasama tayo sa gobyerno,magkasama tayo noon, magkaibigan tayo pero kung ano lang po ang tama. Yun po ang ipinagbibilin sa akin ni Pangulo noon.
Do what is right,’’ he added. (The interest of the people, of the Filipino, comes first. The guilty should pay even if we are colleagues in government or we are friends. That is the advice of President Duterte.)
A pharmaceutical firm owned by the Duque family, identified as Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc (DPI), allegedly earned millions of pesos from the DOH for the supply of medicines in public hospitals that lasted until October 2017 when Duque was appointed as DOH chief for the second time.
Duque claimed he had nothing to do with DPI’s contract from April to October 2017 because he assumed office on November 6, 2017.
Duque is the ex-officio chairman of PhilHealth were overpayments to various hospitals that are leaving the government agency in financial difficulty.
Former DOH Secretary Janette Garin, then concurrent Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) head, had issued an order recalling all medicines manufactured by DPI because they are not in conformity with ‘’pharmaceutical inspectorate cooperation scheme-good manufacturing practice.”
Garin had ordered DPI to discontinue delivering its drug products because they present safety risks and potential adverse health consequences and ordered it to discontinue its manufacturing operations.
She had likewise directed all medicine distributors, retailers, hospitals, pharmacies and clinics to stop selling drugs manufactured by DPI.
DPI earlier delivered to DOH more than 920,000 capsules (500 milligrams) of Amoxicillin, an antibiotic, for P23.5 million in October 2014.
It was still awarded by DOH P3.7 million worth of Amoxicillin in April 2017 and another contract for 235,000 bottles of Amoxicillin syrup and 34,000 bottles of Amoxicillin drops worth P3.8 million.
Duque claimed he divested himself of his interest in DPI in 2006.
He also said he would give factual answers to the issues raised by Lacson.