Ombudsman Samuel Martires has ordered a motu proprio investigation on Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, as well as other health officials over several 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.
- 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
According to the Ombudsman, 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.
In his comment, Duque said:
“We welcome and we are open [to] these investigations on the alleged issues. We are ready, the papers and documents are ready.”
Martires said 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 also 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 urging 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.”
However, President Rodrigo Duterte said Duque still has his trust.
The Department of Health (DOH) welcomes the investigation and will comply with all directives from the Office of Ombudsman.
The DOH, in a statement, said they have been transparent in the COVID-19 response, including procurement transactions and the provision of benefits to healthcare workers.
The Department has issued all checks to the kins of 32 fallen healthcare workers and 19 severe COVID19 patients who recovered, last June 9, they said.
New claims to said benefits are being processed to this day.
The President has also ordered the National Bureau of Investigation last May 26 to investigate the issues raised on the procurement of PPEs, machines, and testing kits by the Procurement Service- Department of Budget and Management.
“The DOH has likewise maintained a regular reporting of cases and deaths through its pressers, situation reports, and in its tracker, publicly available in the official channels. As firm believers of transparency, the Department has likewise religiously informed the public for corrections and clarifications raised by all sectors as it continues to validate all submitted data,” the DOH said.
“DOH officials will willingly cooperate with the authorities to ensure utmost transparency throughout the duration of the investigation and beyond,” said the DOH./Stacy Ang