Lacson: ‘Troubled’ Duterte wants DOH procurement of supplies monitored

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MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered government officials to keep an eye on the procurement of supplies by the Department of Health (DOH), Senator Panfilo Lacson revealed Saturday.

Lacson flagged DOH’s purchase of “grossly overpriced” health and medical supplies as the country deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Naibahagi ni (presidential spokesperson Harry) Roque na na-miss niya tawag ni Presidente kasi naka-mute ang phone niya, hindi niya natanggap hanggang nai-relay sa kanya, nabahala na nga ang Presidente at sabi sa kanya, bantayan ninyo ang procurement ng DOH,” Lacson said in an interview over DWIZ when asked if Malacañang will investigate such report.

(Roque shared with me that he missed the President’s call because his phone was on mute. He did not receive the message until it was relayed to him that the President was troubled and he was told that DOH’s procurement must be monitored.)

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The senator, citing information from an unnamed source, uncovered the overpriced equipment after comparing DOH-acquired medical supplies from those bought by the private sector.

According to him, “The difference runs to hundreds of millions of pesos, if not billions [of pesos] in public funds—if we consider the volume—compared to those bought by private foundations and organizations.”

However, Lacson said the Senate will not launch an investigation into the matter for now so that government efforts will remain focused on battling the COVID-19 crisis.

“At least ang purpose natin, objective, is to put them on notice na may nagbabantay at may nagre-report kaya mag-ingat sila sa procurement nila. Ngayon hindi (panahon) manawagan ng investigation kasi ayaw namin ma-distract dahil nasa pandemic tayo,” Lacson said.

(At least our purpose is to put them on notice that someone is watching over them and someone is reporting them so they must be careful about their procurement. Now is not the time to call for an investigation because we don’t want to be distracted because we are in a pandemic.)

Lacson, nonetheless, reiterated his warning that a “day of reckoning” is waiting for those responsible for the pricier equipment.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said previously that the health department will fully cooperate once the Senate starts an investigation into the alleged procurement of overpriced medical supplies.

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