Graft, malversation, admin charges filed vs DOH officials on P786M allotted for cancer patients

Graft and malversation charges, on top of administrative complaint, have been filed before the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) against several incumbent and former officials of the Department of Health (DOH) in the alleged mismanagement of the P786 million allotted in 2022 for cancer patients under the Cancer Supportive-Palliative Medicines Access Program (CSPMAP).

Named respondents in the complaints filed by Dr. Clarito U. Cairo Jr., a DOH medical officer and medical specialist, were Undersecretary Berverly Lorraine Ho, Director IV Razel Nikka M. Hao, Director IV Anthony B. Cu, Dr. Kim Patrick S. Tejano; Dr. Jan Auro Laurelle V. Llevado; and former Director IV Anna Melissa S. Guerrero.

Based on the copy obtained by Manila Bulletin, the complaint filed by Cairo was received by the OMB on Dec. 23, 2022.

Cairo, who is also president of the Unyon ng mga Kawani ng Kagawaran ng Kalusugan Sentral (UKKKS), alleged that Ho and her co-respondents are “liable for Grave Misconduct, penalized under 2017 Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (2017 RACCS), Malversation of Public Funds defined and penalized under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, and violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”

He alleged that “the respondents are clearly in cahoots to achieve the following goals, namely: (1) to undermine the previous technical expertise and institutional memory of Complainant as longtime cancer control program manager; (2) to get rid of pooled procurement at the DOH Central Office by sub-allotting the CSPMAP funds to access sites; and (3) to increase sales of Roche Philippines, Inc. particularly for Trastuzumab (Herceptin) 600mg SC vial which is still under its patent rights.”

He claimed that Ho and Guerrero are alumni of the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila’s College of Medicine along with Dr. Donn Mc Angelo T. Valdez, who is the Public Ecosystem and Health Economic Lead of Roche Philippines, Inc. since 2020.

Aside from the fact that all three have worked for the Office of the Secretary of Health (OSEC), Cairo said in his complaint: “Based on several photos grabbed from Facebook, Respondent Guerrero, Respondent Ho and Dr. Valdez are not strangers to each other, they are even close friends.”

He said in his complaint that since September 2014 he “has been leading and managing the Philippine Cancer Prevention and Control Program and now called the National Integrated Cancer Control Program by virtue of Republic Act No. 11215 (or the National Integrated Cancer Control Act).”

“In September 2021, the Program led by Complainant launched the more inclusive CSPMAP which aims to provide free medicines to patients with breast, childhood, lung, prostate/bladder/kidney, blood, head and neck/thyroid, gynecologic, and gastrointestinal cancers including the supportive and palliative medicines at any of the 31 accredited access sites/hospitals across the country. CSMAP was funded under the 2021 GAA (General Appropriations Act) amounting to P756M,” he cited.

However, Cairo alleged that Ho with Hao has “fast-tracked the implementation of haphazard DPCB Reorganization Phase I on April 30, 2021 followed by Phase II on November 27, 2021.”

“This is a classic example of putting the cart before the horse,” he alleged.

He pointed out that “there is a need to repeal or rescind first the existing Executive Order (EO) No. 366, series of 2004 (Rationalization Plan of the DOH Central and Regional Offices in 2013), which is far more superior than the DOH Department Order (DO) No. 2022-0279, which was signed only on May 6, 2022, more than a year after the first phase of haphazard DPCB Reorganization.”

“In the current and proposed DPCB set-up, the procurement of medicines for Cancer and Supportive-Palliative Medicines Access Program (CSPMAP) is excluded from the roles and responsibilities of Complainant, who has lone technical expertise and institutional memory of the medicines that are annually procured,” he alleged.

Despite the arrangement, Cairo said he tried to intervene “but respondents Ho, Hao, Cu, Tejano, and Llevado still pursued the sub-allotment of budget amounting to only Php781M (instead of Php786M under the 2022 General Appropriations Act ) to only 19 access sites (instead of the original 31 access sites) with the issuance of Department Order No. 2022-0437 on July 22, 2022, three (3) days after the effectivity of AO No. 2022-2013, wherein the sub-allotment of CSPMAP funds to the access sites is never mentioned as a mode of procurement of the cancer medicines.”

“The Pharmaceutical Division (PD), headed by Respondent Guerrero, handled the Breast Cancer Medicines Access Program (BCMAP) and Childhood Cancer Medicines Access Program (CCMAP), both precursors of CSPMAP, from 2011 to 2016. Respondent Guerrero never sub-allotted the funds to the access sites due to the many advantages of pooled procurement, such as: (a) cost savings, (b) quality improvement, (c) reduced corruption, (d) more efficient procurement processes, and (e) increased access to medicines,” he said.

“The PD which serves as the clearinghouse of all medicines to be procured by the government did not pose any objection to the sub-allotment of funds for CSPMAP. Respondent Guerrero should have known better that pooled procurement is the most cost-efficient mode for the costly cancer medicines,” he also said.

“Had pooled procurement been used for the 2022 cancer medicines, many CSPMAP-enrolled patients in 2021 across 31 access sites would have continued their necessary treatment and the budget hike in 2022 would have resulted in further expansion of the access sites, hence greater number of beneficiaries, from 25,253 patients in 2021 to 26,200 target patients in 2022,” he alleged.

"The Philippine General Hospital, Rizal Medical Center, and Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center which catered to a lot of cancer patients since 2011 had been unreasonably excluded from the list of access sites this 2022," he also alleged.

"Thus, many of their CSPMAP-enrolled patients had to discontinue or abandon their treatment due to the unavailability of the life-saving medicine," he added.

“Roche (Philippines), Inc. had greatly benefitted from the sub-allotment of CSPMAP funds to the access sites/DOH hospitals and individual hospital procurement using the DPRI (Drug Price Reference Index) 2022 as reference and not the lowest calculated bid in 2021 during the pooled procurement conducted through PPPI (Philippine Pharma Procurement, Inc.),” he said.

It was not known immediately if Cairo’s complaint has been acted by the OMB like issuing subpoenas to file counter-affidavits. Manila Bulletin assures publication of the counter-affidavits of those names in the complaints once filed officially with the OMB.

TAGS: #DOH #Ombudsman # Cancer patients @CSPMAP