Ombudsman Samuel Martires said on Friday that the Department of Health (DOH) is apparently hiding something when it gave probers the runaround when they sought data and documents.
“It is either they are attending a meeting, o walang gustong sumagot sa aming mga itatanong, hanggang naabutan na kami ng lockdown,” Martires said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
“We are not demanding much of their time. In fact, these (cooperation with the investigation) can be done by a clerk, not even a division chief, unless they want to sanitize the documents. May mga itinatago,” he added.
Martires said he will be issuing a subpoena to the DOH and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in connection with the ongoing probe on the country’s COVID-19 response.
Martires was referring to the two-week discreet Ombudsman probe on the DOH before the lockdown was implemented on March 15.
The Ombudsman is conducting a probe on the following issues:
- purchase of 100 thousand test kits by the Department of Health
- delayed procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 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.
Martires stressed that concerned personnel should be held accountable because the morale of the public is just as low amid the continued increase of COVID-19 cases in the country.
“They can just order their subordinates to provide the documents. Low morale? Are we not suffering low morale, too? Are we happy that medical frontliners died? Are we happy with what is happening? Why do they always think of themselves at hindi kabutihan ng bawat isa?” Martires said.
“We want to know who is responsible for this. Somebody must be held accountable,” he added.
The DOH welcomed the Ombudsman probe on Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other health officials.
“The DOH welcomes the investigation and will comply with all directives from the Office of Ombudsman,” the department said in a statement.
“The DOH has been transparent in the COVID-19 response, including procurement transactions and the provision of benefits to healthcare workers,” it added.
Vergeire said they were caught off guard with the probe.
“Kung sakaling nagkaroon ng runaround, napagpasa-pasahan, hindi naman po siguro ganun. Ang RITM po kasi ay under DOH, kaya may mga referral po ang RITM sa DOH and then back to RITM. Pero pinatitignan na po natin ito. We will be cooperating with the processes of the government,” she added.
The Philippines, as of June 18, has 27,799 COVID-19 cases so far. Of this number, 7,090 recovered while 1,116 died./Stacy Ang