Duterte defends Duque, says he 'encouraged' DOH chief to skip public bidding for face masks

Published August 25, 2021, 12:47 AM

by Raymund Antonio

Justifying the overpriced face masks procured by the Department of Health (DOH), President Duterte on Tuesday, Aug. 24, said he remembered asking embattled Health Secretary Francisco Duque III not to undergo public bidding anymore because of the urgency of the need.

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his Talk to the People on August 24, 2021. (RTVM Screenshot)

“Sabi ko sa iyo, ‘bumili ka, huwag ka nang dumaan ng public bidding.’ Sabi ko sa iyo (I told you to buy, don’t conduct public bidding anymore. I told you), ‘I authorize you to purchase directly.’ Iyan ang sinabi ko. That’s what I said). But despite of that injunction or rather despite of that encouragement sa iyo (to you), you went ahead to buy, you conducted a public bidding,” he said during a prerecorded public address aired late Tuesday night.

The Chief Executive said he remembered that during the start of the pandemic, there were no face masks available because there was a global shortage of supply.

Pointing at his own mask, he added that the available supply back then was limited, which was why the cost was too high.

“Ngayon, noong marami na ito, maraming nagpapabili, nagmura na…Tandang-tanda ko na sinabi ko sa iyo (Now when there are a lot of these already, it got cheap…I can remember that I told you) this is a pandemic,” the President said.

The DOH is under fire after being flagged by the Commission on Audit for “deficiencies” in the spending of P67.3 billion, a majority of which was used to procure overpriced face masks and face shields from the Department of Budget and Management – Procurement Service (DBM-PS) which acted as a “shop” for government agencies last year.

The agency purchased face masks at P27.72 each and face shields at P120 each. Under current prices, a face mask costs P2 or lower while a face shield is being sold from P8 to P20.

READ: Former DBM exec prepared to face Senate inquiry, insists gov’t bought ‘cheapest’ face masks, shields

“Sinabi ko kay Secretary Duque noon, ‘Magbili ka ng kung anong kailangan (I told Secretary Duque before, ‘buy what’s needed) to protect the public at saka tayo.’ Sabi ko, ‘Papaano itong gobyerno kung puro tayo may sakit?’ (and us’. I said, ‘how will the government run if we’re all sick?’),” Duterte said.

“Iyong public bidding mahal pa rin kasi noon walang supply. Ngayon pwede mo na itong hingiin maski kanino kasi marami na. Kung kakaunti lang ang supply, eh ‘di mag-agawan tayo tapos mas mahal (In the public bidding it was still expensive because there was no supply. Now you can ask for it from anyone because there’s a lot. If there is little supply, then we will fight over it then it’s more expensive),” he added.

Duterte scored the opposition, saying that it uses the audit report “to exploit” despite knowing that medical supplies were in scarcity last year.

The President earlier criticized the state auditors for publishing the audit reports on government agencies, many of which have been flagged for billions’ worth of “deficiencies.”

READ: Duterte says COA reports won’t distract gov’t

In particular, Duterte said he is ready “to go down” with Duque who the public and some lawmakers have been asking to resign.