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Defensor criticizes Hontiveros over ‘overpriced’ PPE claim

Anakalusugan party-list Representative Mike Defensor on Tuesday criticized Senator Risa Hontiveros over her "baseless" accusations of overpricing in the Department of Budget and Management's (DBM's) purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE).

In a statement, Defensor, who chairs the House Committee on Public Accounts, surmised that Hontiveros' motivations in making such accusations were not for altruistic reasons, and could be a mere "smokescreen" to mask the overpricing during the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.

“I think the ‘Yellows’ are trying to shame the Duterte administration to keep the opposition’s own shortcomings in flagging anomalous transactions during the term of former President Noynoy Aquino," he said.

Defensor claimed that back in September 2015, the Department of Health purchased PPE from Rebmann, Inc. at a much higher price of P3,500 per set.

This was followed by another purchase of the same 8-piece PPE set amounting to P3,864 per set the following year, he added.

These prices, according to Defensor, are higher by at least 97% and 118%, respectively, compared to the DBM's purchase price of similar PPEs at an average cost of P1,773.51 per set.

"Senator Hontiveros questions the alleged P200 overprice without proof, but she’s tight-lipped when her colleagues in the former administration bought PPEs at twice today’s prices,” he said.

Moreover, Defensor denied Hontiveros' claim that the government lost P1 billion in purchasing PPEs from Chinese companies.

"Claims of overpricing are untrue. At the time of DBM’s questioned purchases between March and May this year, the Philippines and the whole world were in panic mode. Each country was scrambling for PPEs and facemasks and were fighting over limited supply," he said.

"Even first world countries like the United States and Great Britain didn’t have enough protective gear for their frontliners," he added.

Defensor said there was nothing wrong in purchasing more expensive PPE sets at the height of the COVID-19 crisis.

"It’s no secret that between March and May 2020 there was extremely high demand for PPEs. As the epicenter of COVID-19 at that time, China itself was prioritizing its needs over other countries," he said.

"Following the law of supply and demand, it was expected that prices of protective gear would go through the roof. Since it was a seller’s market, governent had no choice but to bite the bullet," he added.

Defensor even agreed with the DBM that the Philippines was lucky to have purchased the PPE sets considering the difficult situation.

"As DBM correctly noted, it was indeed a 'miracle' that we got the much needed supplies since hundreds of other countries wanted to get their hands on it. Prices only stabilized when production capacity finally caught up with demand, but it took months before this happened," he said.

"If DBM did not purchase PPEs at the questioned prices in March, they would not be accused now of overpricing but of criminal negligence for allowing frontliners to be infected or die due to lack of protective equipment," he added. — DVM, GMA News