Tue. Dec 1st, 2020

MANILA – At least three senators on Wednesday welcomed the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other health officials over alleged lapses by the Department of Health (DOH) in responding to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said he welcomed the investigation because it is the people’s right to know the truth.

“The Filipino people deserve a fair and impartial investigation in order to shed light on these alleged anomalies, and also for concerned officials to have an opportunity to clear their name,” Go said in a statement.

“As a legislator and as chair of the Senate Committee on Health, I have reiterated numerous times amid this global health crisis that funds made available to address the Covid-19 pandemic and the needs of our people at this crucial time must be accounted for — up to the last centavo,” he said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said the investigation is timely and hoped that accountable officials would be truly made liable for their misdeeds.

“It’s about time. I can only hope that this time around, the investigation will bear fruit and find those concerned liable and suffer the consequences of their misdeeds in taking advantage of the Covid-19 crisis for self-aggrandizement,” he said in a separate statement.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he supports the investigation because “the people have every right to demand accountability” from those who have neglected their duties.

“We should exact accountability and transparency from government officials over the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The lapses they committed have exposed to risk the welfare of the entire nation,” Drilon said in another statement.

Among others, he said the Ombudsman should look into the irregularities or negligence in the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) and even in the pricing of PhilHealth’s Covid-19 test package.

“The Ombudsman’s intervention should remind our officials to fulfill their responsibilities with the utmost integrity and honesty. You cannot escape accountability,” Drilon said.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires has ordered the creation of two additional investigating teams that will jointly investigate alleged irregularities and anomalies committed by DOH officials and employees, including Duque, in relation to the response of the DOH during the pandemic.

Among the issues to be investigated include the delayed procurement of PPE sets and other medical gears necessary for the protection of healthcare workers; alleged lapses and irregularities that led to the death of medical workers; the rising number of deaths and infected medical front-liners; inaction in the release and processing of benefits and financial assistance of “fallen” and infected medical front-liners; and confusing and delayed reporting of Covid-19 related deaths and confirmed cases.

The Ombudsman had started investigating DOH officials before the enhanced community quarantine was imposed in the middle of March. The issues being probed then were the purchase of 100,000 test kits, and those concerning test kits developed by the University of the Philippines.

But because investigators were reportedly given the “runaround” by some DOH officials, Martires also authorized the investigation team to “file the necessary criminal and/or administrative case” against any official who fails or refuses to cooperate with the Ombudsman investigation, and those who obstruct or mislead the probe.

Senators have earlier demanded Duque’s resignation over the DOH’s response to the pandemic.

On April 16, 14 senators filed Senate Resolution No. 362 calling for the immediate resignation of Duque allegedly for his “failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, and inefficiency” in handling the Covid-19 crisis. (PNA)

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