Lacson says ‘pattern of overpricing’ at DOH must have ‘day of reckoning’
MANILA, Philippines — For Senator Panfilo Lacson, there should be a “day of reckoning” on what he calls a “pattern of overpricing” in the procurement of medical equipment at the Department of Health (DOH) amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
This came after Lacson pointed out in a Senate hearing the pricing difference between medical equipment bought by the DOH those purchased by private groups.
“There’s a pattern of overpricing. Not this time, we are in the middle of a crisis. We should not be distracting DOH and other government instrumentalities by conducting an investigation,” Lacson said in an interview with ANC.
“But I think there should be a day of reckoning on all this,” the senator added.
Lacson noted that seizing an opportunity “for self-aggrandizement out of a crisis as big as the COVID-19 pandemic I think that’s the height of callousness and greed.”
“Seizing an opportunity out of a crisis is a good thing when you do it for country. For example when we know other locators or factories are relocating from China to other places in Asia, yan ang i-seize nating opportunity (we should seize those opportunities),” Lacson said.
During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Lacson said the health department procured 10 nucleic acid extractor machines at P4 million each—more than half the price of the same machines bought by Project Ark, a private sector pushing rapid antibody testing, which were priced at P1.75 million.
Likewise, Lacson also pointed out that the DOH bought a swabbing system priced twice as their common price.
“At the end of the day, we see a pattern of overpricing. If it’s only one item then probably it’s been overlooked or they can reason out a different supplier or manufacturer. But it’s a pattern,” Lacson said.
Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao explained that Project Ark bought Chinese-made Sansure machines while they bought U.S.-made Thermo Science King Fisher as per the request of the DOH and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).
During the hearing, Health Secretary Francisco Duque also defended the procurement of the equipment by the DOH, adding that the U.S.-made machines were compatible with the existing equipment of the RITM and DOH.
But pointing out the file videos he saw, Lacson said that even the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) is using Sansure in their polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
“Yesterday I confronted Secretary Duque, he is claiming the reason they did not purchase Sansure, it’s because it is a closed system, which is not true,” Lacson said.
“’Sansure, when I did a little research and asked some doctors and medical practitioners, it is compatible with at least five other machines…. But it is not true at all that Sansure, which is a brand manufactured in China, is a closed system. That is not true. Giving us false information does not help him,” he added.
Lacson said the government is “operating on very limited resources” during the pandemic.
“Bakit lagi na lang pag government ang nagpo-procure bakit napakamahal, di lang napakamahal kundi halos doble o mahigit doble ang presyo (Why is it always so expensive when it is the government procuring the items? It’s not just expensive, it’s twice or more than the common price)?” Lacson said.
“We realize the limitations and challenges but di ba dapat everybody especially those in government should have a share in judiciously spending limited resources in government?” he added.
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