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DOH was ‘very corrupt,’ says former undersecretary

The Department of Health (DOH) was "very corrupt," said Philippine Red Cross lead for Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Dr. Susan Mercado.

"When I was there, it was very corrupt. There is always corruption," Mercado said on "Bawal ang Pasaway kay Mareng Winnie" on Monday.

She served as undersecretary with the agency under the late Health secretary and senator Juan Flavier.

Mercado made the remark during a discussion about the DOH's P3.5-billion dengue Dengvaxia purchase that has come under fire after manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur revealed that vaccine may cause severe dengue for those who were not previously infected with the virus.

Mercado recalled Flavier saying corruption cannot be removed, but can be limited by removing the head of the department "where the signals come from."

"Secretary Flavier said to me once, there is always corruption in the government. But you have to find a way to get what you want done and minimize the corruption 'cause you can't eliminate it completely in the three or four years that you are in the government," she said.

"The way to do it is really from the top. It's really from the top of the Department of Health where the signals come from," Mercado added.

Mercado said last week that the Formulary Executive Council (FEC) denied the request of the DOH leadership, then under former secretary Janette Garin, for "exceptional approval" to go ahead with the purchase of P3.5 billion worth of Dengvaxia.

The FEC did not also give the go-signal for the purchase of the vaccine even after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its sale.

The approval of the FEC and FDA are required for an immunization program to reach the latter stages of the approval process.

Dengaxia was given an exemption from this assessment by Garin in February, though an invitation to bid and a purchase request was prepared in January.

Department of Health (DOH) Department Order No. 2014-0088 states that exemptions can only be granted for "a current or potential urgent health situation" and "for concerns that are of public health importance upon decision and endorsement of the Secretary of Health." — Rie Takumi/BAP, GMA News