‘Steal as one?’ Senators want probe of ‘grossly overpriced’ health supplies
MANILA, Philippines — Several senators on Monday called for an investigation into the alleged “grossly overpriced” health supplies reportedly purchased by the government in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“While emergency measures are being practiced, [the government] should start an investigation on the allegations,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a message to reporters.
“It’s very disappointing and depressing to know that there are public officials who take advantage of the peoples’ crisis. They should be jailed asap then throw away the key,” he added.
Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier flagged the alleged “overpriced” health supplies procured by the government, which included a nucleic acid extractor and swabbing system for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and personal protective equipment (PPE) sets.
“Gusto rin nating malaman ang katotohanan tungkol dito. ‘Steal as one’ ba ang nangyayari sa pagbili ng mga anti-COVID medical supplies?” Senator Francis Pangilinan said in a statement.
(We also want to know if there’s any truth to this. Is ‘steal as one’ happening in the procurement of medical supplies?)
“It’s unconscionable how some individuals could even think of exploiting the purchase of medical supplies for their selfish ends, if reports are true,” he added.
Pangilinan stressed that by “jacking up” prices of supplies such as swab kits and PPE sets would mean lesser units than what is needed, which the senator said would deprive the people and health frontliners “of the defenses they need to fight COVID-19.”
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, chair of the Senate health committee, said officials from the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and other concerned agencies would be required to explain during the Senate inquiry into the status of the government’s COVID-19 response.
“We can give them the opportunity to shed light on this matter during the Senate Committee of the Whole hearings to be held in the coming days,” Go said in a separate message to reporters.
“The funds made available to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the needs of our people at this crucial time should be accounted for–up to the last centavo, and the public deserves to know how it is spent,” he added.
For his part, Senator Sonny Angara said those with “actual knowledge” of the alleged procurement of overpriced medical supplies should file a case before the Ombudsman.
“If there is evidence then those with actual knowledge should file a case with the Ombudsman or even the Senate blue ribbon committee,” Angara said.
Earlier, Senator Grace Poe also said that one million sets of PPEs that the DOH bought were also “overpriced” by as much as P1.4 billion.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire has since denied such allegation.
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