Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, admitted that he was hurt by the Senate’s ongoing investigation on the procurement of allegedly overpriced pandemic supplies and equipment, saying they were pre-judged and their reputation were painted black.
Galvez, in a pre-recorded Cabinet meeting aired Wednesday morning, Sept. 8, accused the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee of pre-judging him of corruption as well as the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) and its former chief, resigned DBM Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao, the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and OCD Administrator Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad.
“[S]imula po nang magsimula ang Senate hearing, medyo sumama na po ang loob namin dahil kasi ‘yong context kaagad na there is a P42-billion planned plunder kaagad ang nasa ano. Parang may presumption of guilt na talagang may kinuha tayong P42 billion (Since the beginning of the Senate hearing, we were really hurt because the context was that there is a P42-billion planned plunder. It’s as if there was already a presumption of guilt that we stole P42 billion),” said an emotional Galvez, with his voice shaking.
“Parang ‘yong PS-DBM, they painted black and ‘yong personal ano po ni Lloyd ay talagang parang pinipintahan po na parang pangit (It’s as if that they painted black the PS-DBM and the personal [character] of Lloyd),” he added.
Headed by Senator Richard Gordon, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is currently probing the government’s transactions in the procurement of P42 billion worth of allegedly overpriced personal protective equipment (PPEs) and other COVID-19 supplies in the early days of the pandemic.
The probe was triggered by the Department of Health’s (DOH) supposed mishandling of some P67 billion worth of funds in pandemic response as reflected in a Commission on Audit report.
According to Galvez, there was no truth to the claims that the PPEs bought by the PS-DBM from Chinese manufacturer Pharmally for P1,470 to P1,90 per set were overpriced even though the locally manufactured PPEs only cost P850.
Galvez recalled receiving an order from President Duterte on April 2, 2020 to immediately produce or procure PPEs and other supplies for the protection of the healthcare workers.
Galvez, a former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, said he sought the help of the logistics office of AFP to evaluate the logistics capability of DOH and Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). He said they found out that the DOH and RITM had no enough manpower in their procurement service to process the purchase of bulk supplies of PPEs and other medical supplies.
Now in a sense of emergency, the NTF chief implementer said he recommended to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) the creation of a “task group on resource generation and logistics” to handle the procurement of the supplies and its negotiation with foreign suppliers. He said this enabled the government to secure the first batch of supplies from China as early as April 6, 2020 despite the high global demand.
Galvez also denied that the government favored Chinese manufacturers over local suppliers in the procurement of PPEs and other supplies. He stressed that the country was not capabale of producing PPEs and other medical supplies in the beginning of the pandemic so they had to import from foreign manufacturers.
Later on, Galvez said some local manufacturers were repurposed so they could supply PPEs to the government. He then asked the OCD, headed by Undersecretary Jalad, to supervise the handling of locally manufactured PPEs and other supplies.
Galvez went on to defend the use of C-130 aircraft of the AFP to fetch the supplies from Pharmally since only the military had the capability to fetch the supplies in the beginning of the pandemic when airline companies were barred from operating due to the imposed lockdown.
“Bakit natin ginamit ang C-130? Kasi sinabi ng supplier, kapag papatay patay kayo mawawala ang supply at kukunin ng ibang countries kasi nag-aagawan ng supply (Why did we use the C-130? It’s because the supplier said we would lose the supply, and other countries would get it if we’d respond slowly because there was a high demand),” he said.
Senators have pointed out that local manufacturers were not given the same accommodation by the NTF although Galvez insisted there was no “special treatment” given to Pharmally.
Galvez reiterated that there was no corruption in the government’s procurement of COVID-19 supplies and equipment, noting they were “afraid” of Duterte and his no nonsense approach to corruption.
“Masakit po ang loob namin, kami po nila Lloyd at OCD sila Usec. Jalad. Kami po nagpapakahirap na magproduce ng PPE at equipment natin, test kits. Ang ating objective noon is to save lives. (We are hurt — me, Lloyd and the USec. Jalad of OCD. We were the ones who worked hard to produce the PPEs, our equipment, and test kits. Our objective is to save lives). How can we think about something else?,” he said.
“Sir, ang laki ng takot namin sa inyo. Ako po natatakot na ako sa inyo dahil kasi sinabi niyo sa akin noong maging Chief of Staff ako na ‘gawin mo na lahat ‘wag lang maging korap kasi I’m not patient to corruption’ (Sir, we are afraid of you. Even me, I’m afraid of you because you told me when I became of Chief of Staff, ‘do anything else but don’t be a corrupt because I’m not patient to corruption),” he concluded.