By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
Ombudsman Samuel Martires has formed three investigating teams that will look into the irregularities committed by the Department of Health (DOH) officials, including Secretary Francisco Duque, with regards to its response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Ombudsman recently formed two additional teams to look into the delayed procurement of physical protective equipment (PPEs) and other items needed for the protection of medical frontliners, the reported lapses and irregularities that led to the death of health workers, the department’s inaction in the release and processing of financial assistance to infected and “fallen” medical workers, as well as the “confusing and delayed” reporting of COVID-19 deaths and confirmed cases.
Even before the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) last March, Martires has already motu propio formed one fact-finding team to investigate the DOH’s purchase of 100,000 test kits and the news reports involving the use of University of the Philippines (UP)-invented test kits.
The probe was based on the recommendations of Assistant Ombudsman Caesar D. Asuncion, Assistant Ombudsman Joselito P. Fangon, and Assistant Ombudsman Jose M. Balmeo Jr.
Charge uncooperative DOH employees
Martires said that their Field Investigation Office started its probe as early as then. However, they faced difficulties because some DOH officials refused to cooperate.
“Our investigators were given a runaround by some DOH officials and personnel by referring us from one department or office to another,” he said.
In light of this, Martires authorized the Joint Investigation Team to file necessary criminal or administrative charges against any official or employee who fails or refuses to comply with the Ombudsman’s legal processes, orders, and requests.
Any DOH official or employee who willfully obstructs or hinders the conduct of the investigation or even anyone who misleads the Ombudsman investigators will likewise be charged.