Group asks Ombudsman, DOH to act on graft raps vs ex-Mental Center exec
MANILA, Philippines – A group has asked the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Health (DOH) to act on the graft complaints against a former official of the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH).
Pinoy Aksyon for Governance and the Environment on Monday called on the agencies to resolve the cases faced by ex-NCMH chief administrator Clarita Avila, the same controversial official who previously revealed that that the mental institution’s staffers have contracted COVID-19 due to lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Group spokesperson Em Ross Guangco said in a statement that the government must show that the law is still being enforced even amid the ongoing health crisis.
“We appeal to the Ombudsman and the DOH to resolve the cases vs Avila. At this time of COVID-19 pandemic, the government needs to show the people the strong force of the rule of law, if only to assuage them government is there to serve and protect them,” Guangco said.
Pinoy Aksyon was referring to a graft and malversation complaint filed by NCMH Medical Chief II Dr. Roland Cortez against Avila last July 2019, which was based on a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) findings of irregularities in a project seeking to extend the health facility’s Pavilion 6.
Cortez said in the complaint that Avila is an incorporator of Octant Builders, the construction firm tapped to do the project. When INQUIRER.net tried to contact Avila last June 2019 over the complaint, her staffers said that the embattled ex-NCMH official was not available then, as she was having her lunch.
The NBI investigation cited by the complaint showed that the budget for the Pavilion 6 extension project was at P55 million, but Cortez presented photos — included as evidence in the complaint — showing the building was unfurnished and unfit for mental patients.
INQUIRER.net tried to reach the Office of the Ombudsman to inquire on the status of the case, but it has yet to reply as of posting time.
Last April, as COVID-19 cases were piling up, Avila came out publicly to allege that the situation inside the NCMH has become dire as employees are left to work without PPEs, making them vulnerable to coronavirus transmissions.
Cortez then wrote a letter asking Avila not to speak on behalf of NCMH, as she was not the designated spokesperson. After the issue, Avila was transferred to the Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center in Las Piñas by DOH.
She was with NCMH for 30 years.
Eventually, the NCMH admitted last April 27 that 88 of its staffers and patients have contracted the coronavirus, forcing it to limit admissions of mental patients.
However, Pinoy Aksyon insisted that Avila’s raising of the issue may only be a diversion to distract people from the graft complaints she is facing.
“It may be recalled that in April this year, Avila was ordered by the [DOH] to transfer to the Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center (DATRC) in Las Piñas City. At that time, Avila alleged that she was being transferred because she had written a Facebook post that criticized the NCMH administration,” Guangco said.
“Avila’s claims turned out to be false, as the NCMH has an ample supply of PPEs. The incident, though, inadvertently led to the exposure of the multiple cases that had been filed against Avila,” Guangco added.
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