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Duque, others face Ombudsman probe over 'anomalies' in COVID-19 response

Ombudsman Samuel Martires has ordered a motu proprio investigation on Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other health officials over various issues raised in connection with the Department of Health's (DOH) response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I directed the creation of  two more investigating teams who will jointly investigate alleged irregularities and anomalies committed by DOH officials and employees, including Health Secretary Francisco Duque, in relation to the response of the DOH during this pandemic,” Martires said.

In a text message sent to Super Radyo dzBB's Senior Correspondent Rowena Salvacion, Martires said that Duque is being probed by his office over the following reasons:

  • purchase of 100 thousand test kits by the Department of Health
  • delayed procurement of Personal Protective Equipment and other medical gears necessary for the protection of healthcare workers
  • alleged lapses and irregularities that led to the death of medical workers
  • rising number of deaths and infected medical frontliners
  • inaction in the release processing of benefits and financial assistance of “fallen” and infected medical frontliners; and
  • confusing and delayed reporting of COVID-19 related deaths and confirmed cases

The investigating team has been instructed to file the necessary criminal and/or administrative case against any official or employee who refuses to cooperate with the ongoing probe.

Sought for comment, Duque told GMA News that they are open for investigations.

"We welcome and we are open [to] these investigations on the alleged issues. We are ready, the papers and documents are ready," he said.

According to Martires, his office started to conduct an investigation ahead of the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine last March 15, but  the investigators were given a runaround by some DOH officials and personnel.

Malacanang, for its part, asked Duque and the others to “cooperate with the investigation and respect the orders” of the Ombudsman.

“The Ombudsman, as we all know, is an independent constitutional body; thus, we will let the process run its course,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

Duque's leadership at the DOH amid the COVID-19 pandemic has repeatedly been questioned with some blaming him for the high number of cases in the country.

In April, 14 senators, including those allied with the administration, filed a resolution asking for Duque's immediate resignation for "failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, and inefficiency in the performance of his mandate."

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, one of the 14 senators who signed the resolution, said he is hoping the Ombudsman's investigation on Duque and the others will "bear fruit."

Despite this, President Rodrigo Duterte said Duque still has his trust.  --Llanesca T. Panti/KBK, GMA News