'Criminal negligence': Makabayan solons hit Duque over COVID-19 fund use deficiencies

Published August 12, 2021, 12:16 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Progressive lawmakers have assailed anew Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque after the reported deficiencies of his department in spending some P67.32 billion in COVID-19 response funds.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (PCOO)

Bayan Muna Party List Representative Carlos Zarate on Thursday, August 12, charged Duque of “criminal negligence” after the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the DOH for “various deficiencies” in handling COVID-19 funds.

“Hindi lang ito act of being inefficient, hindi lang ito kapabayaan (This is not only an act of being efficient, not only of negligence), this borders on criminal negligence,” Zarate said during the weekly press briefing of the Makabayan bloc.

“Ilang buhay ang nawala dahil itong pondong ito ay hindi ginamit nang maayos ng DOH sa pamumuno ni Sec. Duque (We lost several lives because this fund was not properly used by the DOH under Sec. Duque’s leadership),” he added.

“Maraming buhay ang pwede nitong naisalba noong nakaraang taon kung nagamit lang nang maayos ang pondong ito (Lives could have been saved last year if the funds were used properly),” Zarate pointed out.

Representative Eufemia Cullamat also accused the DOH officials of corrupting the COVID-19 response funds.

“Imbes na matulungan ang mga nangangailangan sa panahon ng krisis pangkalusugan, ang DOH ay pinanatili na malusog ang kanilang bulsa. Talagang ‘health is wealth’ para sa mga namumuno sa gobyerno (Instead of helping those who are needy in time of crisis, DOH officials kept their pockets healthy. Government officials are indeed living up to ‘health is wealth’,” Cullamat said.

Duque, she said, must step down from his post for his supposed mismanagement of the health crisis.

“Kailangan nang magresign ni Sec. Duque sa lantarang kapabayaan at korapsyon na nagaganap sa DOH (Sec. Duque has to resign for the blatant negligence and corruption),” Cullamat said in a separate statement, citing the delays in release of benefits for health workers and lack of health facilities and equipment in hospitals.

“Paulit-ulit na sinasabi ng administrasyong Duterte na wala tayong sapat na pera, pero ano itong napakalaking deficiencies na nasa report ng COA? Parang isang bula ba ito na nawala agad? Nasaan napunta ang mahigit na P67 billion [na] pondo (The Duterte administration has repeatedly complained that we do not have enough resources, but what are these massive deficiencies in the COA report? Did these disappear like a bubble? Where did the more than P67 billion go)?” Cullamat lamented.

For ACT Teacher’s Party List Rep. France Castro, Duque was shameless for denying the corruption of COVID-19 funds.

“May kapal pa ng mukha si Sec. Duque na sabihin na walang korapsyon. ‘Yong misuse of funds, ‘yong pag-procure ng mga medicine na malapit nang maexpire o nag-expire na — wala bang korapsyon dito? Hindi ko alam saan kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha itong si Sec. Duque (Sec. Duque was even audacious to say there is no corruption. The misuse of funds, procurement of medicines that are nearing or have already expired — how is there no corruption? I don’t know where Sec. Duque gets this audacity),” Castro said.

While echoing her colleagues, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas said President Duterte must also be held liable for the “fatal” mismanagement of COVID-19 response funds.

“Nakakamatay ang ganitong krimen sa paglustay ng pondo at dapat managot si Sec. Duque at si Duterte (This crime of not using government funds is fatal, and Sec. Duque, as well as President Duterte, must be held accountable),” Brosas said.

Zarate called on the House of Representative to look into the DOH’s handling of COVID-19 funds, especially with the upcoming congressional hearings for the proposed 2022 national budget.

 
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