Imee to DOH: Break free from suspicions of graft, cut ties with PS-DBM

Published August 27, 2021, 10:10 AM

by Mario Casayuran

The Department of Health (DOH) must conduct its own biddings and awards for supplies worth billions of pesos and cut its ties with the Department of Budget and Management DBM to avoid suspicion of graft, Senator Imee R. Marcos said.

Marcos also said the decision last year of the purchasing system of the DBM to buy substandard personal protection equipment (PPE) and other materials from China ‘’under very peculiar circumstances, puro negotiated pa hindi nag-tender and award (all negotiated and no bids offered)’’ is very confusing.

Purchases by other government agencies such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are coursed to the Department of Trade and Investment (DTI) through its purchasing arm, Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC).

Marcos said that P42 billion out of the P67 billion COVID-19 response funds of the DOH was for medical supplies bid out last year and ‘’tuloy tuloy and bidding niyan and that’s going on until today.’’

The Commission on Audit (COA) recently flagged the DOH for its alleged incompetence in the handling of the P67 billion.

The Senate Blue Ribbon committee that unilaterally called a hybrid hearing on the COA findings resumes this afternoon.

Six companies were involved in the DBM supply contracts.

Asked during a TV interview whether DOH Secretary Francisco Duque should be a signatory in these negotiated contracts, Marcos replied: ‘’I would have thought so but DBM-PS operates under DBM. So once the fund is transferred, it’s no longer under DOH but it’s managed by it’s the DBM Undersecretary (Lloyd Christopher Lao) who haa a free for all in that area.’’

Queried whether Lao’s answers in last Wednesday’s committee hearing are credible, Marcos said: ‘’I have to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. We have to presume them innocent but there is a lot of room to worry and I believe that these people should be held accountable, everyone should must be called forward to tell the story.’’

Marcos said one of those called for today’s hearing will be Pharmally Pharmaceutical corporation, a firm that sold masks in three batches in a closed deal worth some P9 billion.

‘’Yes, that’s on record. There are several others. There’s Hafid N/Erasmus, there’s another called Blue Shield Biotech and so on,’’ she replied during the TV interview.

‘’Yes, I think it’s necessary that someone be called. But in many cases, we’re not sure where the addresses are of these companies, the chief officers can no longer be found. It’s all terribly, terribly sinister,’’ she added.

Marcos said the decision of PS-DBM to buy PPEs and other medical materials from China triggered howls of protests from local manufacturers.

‘’We have had huge protests from local manufacturers of PPEs, mula sa pinaka-maliit ng mananahing nanay sa Taytay (Rizal) hanggang sa mga nagre-tool na exporters na talagang pinagpolitang bumili ng mga makinarya, microbial fabric and so on to provide the PPEs (from mothers who are sewers in Taytay to exporters who re-tooled and were forced to buy machines, microbial fabric and others to provide PPEs),’’ she said.

‘’Pagkatapos, pinakausapan ng gobyerno, hindi bumili, hindi kami bumili, DOH, pambihira talaga (After government talked to them to prepare for the production of these supplies, DOH did not buy from them),’’ she pointed out.

Because of this, some 25,000 jobs could have been saved ‘’or at least generated income for any number of families,’’ Marcos lamented.