DOH ‘respects’ graft raps vs Duque over COVID-19 supply deals


The Department of Health said it respected the Office of the Ombudsman's decision to file graft charges against former Secretary Francisco Duque III over the alleged irregular transfer of over P41 billion for COVID-19 supplies procurement in 2020. 

“The DOH respects all legal proceedings and will act accordingly,” said DOH spokesperson Albert Domingo on Saturday. 

Graft charges were also recommended against former Department of Budget and Management Undersecretary Christopher Lao in connection with the allegedly anomalous pandemic deals. 

The Ombudsman also found Duque and Lao guilty of grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the service.

Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros welcomed the Ombudsman’s decision three years since the Blue Ribbon Committee held marathon hearings on the Duterte administration's allegedly anomalous medical supplies procurement. 

“I would like to thank the Ombudsman for faithfully fulfilling its mandate to seek justice, especially in cases involving misappropriation of public funds and anomalies in procurement,” said Hontiveros in a statement. 

The senator added that the latest development also served as a “victory” for the public who were betrayed during the health crisis. 


“Ito ay para sa mga mamamayang naghirap at nagkasya lang sa limitadong ayuda noong pandemya, lalo’t higit sa mga healthcare workers na nagtiis sa delayed na special allowance at hazard pay habang nagkakamal ng bilyung-bilyong piso ang mga pinaborang kompanya gaya ng Pharmally,” Hontiveros added. 

(This is for the people who had to survive with limited assistance during the pandemic. This is also special to the healthcare workers who had to endure everything because of the delayed special allowance and hazard pay while billions of pesos were used to favor a company like Pharmally.) 

Meanwhile, Duque spoke with GMA News Online and said he would file a motion for reconsideration for the Ombudsman's order to file graft charges against him "[P]robably Monday or Tuesday."

The Ombudsman investigation on Duque and Lao stemmed from the complaint filed by Hontiveros and former Senator Richard  Gordon, and a Commission on Audit report in 2020. 

In a 49-page resolution dated May 6 but released on Friday, the Ombudsman flagged the DOH’s transfer of P41.46 billion to Lao’s DBM Procurement Services office. 

The Ombudsman also noted that the DOH could have purchased directly from suppliers of COVID-19 supplies and equipment. 

"The illegal, unjustified, and unwarranted transfer of funds caused the consequent imposition of service fees that effectively removed a sizeable amount of money intended for the purchase of PPEs, test kits, and other COVID-essential goods requested by medical facilities and DOH offices and bureaus,” the resolution read. — DVM, GMA Integrated News