Lacson flags ‘mafia-like’ irregularities in DOH's medicine procurement

Published August 25, 2021, 3:50 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday, August 25, dared Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III to put his foot down against the “mafia-like” activities behind the recurring overstocking of medicines and other irregularities hounding the agency.

Senator Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson (Senate of the Philippines)

Lacson issued the challenge during a Senate Blue Ribbon committee hybrid hearing after citing figures showing overstocked, expired and near-expiry medicines amounting to P2.736 billion — including P2.2 billion in 2019 alone.

“We wasted P2.736 billion in taxpayers’ money. What’s the reason for this? Why are we overstocking? Why are we buying medicines near their expiration dates? What does this tell us? I’ve been an investigator all my life. To me, this indicates that there is probably a ‘mafia’ that is well-entrenched, can’t be uprooted,” he said.

“Unless the leadership of the DOH will put his foot down and do something about this, we won’t see the end of this overstocking of medicines,” he added.

Lacson cited data from the Commission on Audit (COA) indicating a wastage of P95,675,058.98 in 2020; P2,2 billion in 2019; P378,169,000 in 2018; P7,031,542 in 2017; P25,866,000 in 2016; P18,394,000 in 2015; P6,851,000 in 2014; and P4,442,000 in 2013.

He also recalled Duque, during his confirmation hearing at the Commission on Appointments (CA) in 2018, had committed to address the problem of overstocking which are ‘’recurring issues.’’

While Duque said he would look into the mafia-like activities, Lacson said a better approach is to do a thorough scrutiny of the unit involved in the procurement.

“I think the better approach here is a thorough scrutiny of the unit under DOH that’s in charge of procuring drugs and medicines… It’s wastage of public funds,” Lacson said.

Lacson also questioned the deficiency in the management of Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) projects involving some P4.003 billion in sum since 2014.

“This may not be an issue of corruption. But this is an issue of inefficiency,” he said. Duque promised to conduct an inventory of the projects.

Meanwhile, Lacson also raised concerns on the disbursement of operating units that did not comply with rules, procedures, policies and practices.

He cited figures indicating irregular, unnecessary and excessive expenditures in the management of HFEP infrastructure projects from 2016 to 2020 amounting to P956,769,748.22.