Drilon: Duque committed the ‘original sin’ in purchase of overpriced PPEs

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III was the one who committed the “original sin” in the procurement of overpriced personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies in 2020 since he authorized the transfer of the P42-billion to the Department of Budget and Management’s procurement service (DBM-PS) then headed by Christopher Lao, Sen. Franklin Drilon said on Thursday.

The fund transfer eventually enabled the Lao to enter into a P8.7-billion contract with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. without any memorandum of agreement (MOA).

“Secretary Duque committed the original sin. It was because of what he did by transferring this money, without any MOA as required by COA (Commission on Audit) rules, that enabled Lao to do what he did,” Drilon said in an interview with ANC Headstart.

“There is no escaping of liability. Lao admitted upon my question, that he did not exercise due diligence,” he pointed out.

Drilon also said he believes that when President Duterte ordered Duque to transfer the funds to the DBM-PS, he made it to provide it legal cover.

“Because under the law and the Constitution, only the President can direct the transfer of funds from one agency to another in the Executive branch,” he said.

“Secretary Duque cannot do that. Legally, it must be the President. That is why the President made the statement that he ordered the transfer,” he pointed out.

The minority leader also rejected Duterte’s defense on the need to negotiate with Michael Yang to generate investments pointing out that Pharmally Corp. is not even a manufacturer.

“First, this is not an investment. Pharmally is not a manufacturer. In fact, their office no longer exists. The office is the same address as Huang Xu Yen, who is listed as the CEO, and Mohit Morgani who is listed as the treasurer,” he explained.

The veteran senator also said that while former Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado could be held liable for the transaction, he has no power to alter such decision.

“Looking at the administrative structure, the PS-DBM is only an attached agency, meaning, the secretary has no control,” he said.

“Typically, the relationship between an office and the secretary is that the secretary would have control over the undersecretary, but, in this case, it is only for program coordination. Sec. Avisado cannot change the decision, only the President,” he added.

“In fairness to him, he quit...He may be expecting na puputok ito kaya umalis na siya (this will blow up so he decided to leave),” Drilon said.