The Department of Health (DOH) lamented that an Office of the Ombudsman investigation on Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other health officials has taken a toll on the morale of the DOH, its spokesperson said Friday.
“Yung morale talaga ay bumaba dahil syempre nakikita natin na talaga namang nagtatrabaho ang ating mga kawani tapos ito nga merong ganito (We really have low morale because as you can see, our people are really working and then this happened.),” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual press briefing.
The Ombudsman last Wednesday has announced that it will be investigating Duque and other DOH officials for their alleged lapses in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Duque has long been under fire for various issues such as accusations of overpriced test kits and equipment. However, the Ombudsman also complained that their investigators were given the “runaround by some DOH officials and personnel by referring us from one department or office to another.”
Vergeire pointed out that in the last 2 years, the DOH has been handling various health crises, from the measles, dengue and polio outbreaks last year to the Taal eruption and the COVID-19 pandemic this year.
“Napakalaking kalungkutan ang inabot ng ating mga tauhan ng DOH nung narinig natin na bigla tayong iniimbestigahan ng Ombudsman at nagkakaroon pa ng allegations na ito (Our people at DOH were really saddened when we heard that we were being investigated by the Ombudsman.),” she said.
She said they are hoping that the government would work as a collective whole and that it won’t be “divisive,” especially when it is handling a pandemic.
Asked if Duque will take a leave of absence during the investigation, as suggested by a senator, Vergeire said there was no need for that.
“Hindi pa natin nakikita ‘yung pangangailangan para mag leave si Secretary Duque para doon sa imbestigasyon na isinasagawa ng Ombudsman (We have not yet seen the need for Secretary Duque to take a leave of absence for the investigation being done by the Ombudsman.),” Vergeire said.
Vergeire revealed that they have not yet even received a formal communication from the Ombudsman about the investigation although they are already preparing for it and are ready to cooperate.
She said those saying that the undersecretaries can just do the work of Duque should understand that they need his leadership.
“We have our full support to the Secretary and we still think he should be retained,” she said.
She also dismissed rumors that some employees have left the DOH over the controversy.
Vergeire insisted that they were able to give the Ombudsman the information they requested back in March.
Vergeire said they have no idea who will be investigated besides Duque.
She said the Ombudsman might have felt they were being given the runaround when they requested information which the DOH had to relay to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.
The health official pointed out that it is part of their process.
Vergeire did not elaborate what documents were requested by the Ombudsman but that they will release more information during the probe./Stacy Ang