Transfer of P42-B to PS-DBM justified, Duque tells senators

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III on Tuesday, Sept. 21 said it decided to funnel its P42 billion COVID-19 response funds to Procurement Service Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) to buy medical supplies because it was overwhelmed by the rise in infections early last year.

This decision continues to mystify the Senate Blue Ribbon committee where some of its members, particularly Senator Richard J. Gordon, committee chairman, why DOH decided to remit its money to PDS-DBM to buy the COVID 19-related medical supplies since it has its own bids and awards committees.

` They had also wanted to know who ordered the remittal of the P42 billion from DOH to PS-DBM.

PS-DBM is now fighting off allegations of having awarded through negotiated bids ‘’overpriced’’ contracts, mostly to non-Filipino firms.

` Allegations of overpricing, particularly to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation that bagged more than P10 billion in contracts although it had a paid up capital of only P625,000, prompted Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon to claim there is a ‘’premeditated plunder.’’

Some of the P41.4 billion remitted by DOH to PS-DBM was used to buy, among others, P25.42 billion worth of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). P14.55 billion worth of test kits, P1.3 billion worth of mechanical ventilators and P130 million worth of extractor machines, cadaver bags and cloth masks.

` Senator Risa Hontiveros said she appreciated Duque’s answers to Gordon’s queries by giving a breakdown of the PS-DBM purchases but insisted that each of the items bought were health products that could have been bought by DOH’s bids and awards committees.

‘’That mystery remains,’’ she added.

Defending, Duque said the capability of the DOH’s four ad-hoc bids and awards committees were ‘’so small’’ and that its people started to get infected and had to be hospitalized or quarantined.

The DOH was also operating under a difficult situation compared to PS-DBM that had 10 full-time bids and awards committees, he explained.

‘’We were overwhelmed. There was no time to expand the capacity of the department’s bids awards committees, Duque added.

‘’We saw (COVID-19) cases rising. The health care

system was going to collapse. PS-DBM had the capability,’’ he explained.

After stating that he trusts PS-DBM, Duque said: ‘’If I can’t trust PS-DBM whom shall I trust?’’

Gordon then said the DOH should have ‘’gone all the way’’ when the price of a face masks was at P16 per piece compared to what was bought at about P27.72 by PS-DBM.

Senator Francis ‘’Kiko’’ N. Pangilinan pointed out that what the Senate had established is that the price of the items were at suggested retail prices (SRPs) which was used by PS-DBM.

‘’That was why there was overprice,’’ he added.