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Group renews call for resolution of graft complaint vs ex-official of NCMH

/ 02:00 AM June 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – An anti-corruption watchdog group urged the Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday to act on a graft complaint filed against Clarita Avila, former chief administrator of the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH), in relation to an anomalous expansion project in the said facility.

Pinoy Action for Governance and the Environment questioned why the graft-investigating body had not decided whether charges should be filed against Avila.

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Avila, the same official who revealed that the NCMH staffers had contracted COVID-19 due to lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), was supposedly involved in irregularities in constructing the extension of the mental facility’s Pavilion 6.

“We feel the need to make this urgent call for the Ombudsman to take swift, decisive and just resolution on this case of an allegedly errant officer of government,” Pinoy Akyon convenor BenCyrus Ellorin said in a statement.

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Previously, Pinoy Aksyon also released a statement calling for the resolution of the case, but that was last May 18, when Metro Manila was still under a modified enhanced community quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group was referring to a graft and malversation complaint filed by NCMH Medical Chief II Dr. Roland Cortez against Avila last July 2019, in which he cited a National Bureau of Investigation probe.

The investigation said that the budget for the Pavilion 6 extension project was P55 million, but Cortez presented photos showing that the building was unfurnished and unfit for mental patients.

According to the complaint filed by Cortez, 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 about the complaint, her staffers said that the embattled ex-NCMH official was not available, as she was having her lunch.

Last April, as COVID-19 cases started to pile up, Avila came out publicly claiming that the situation inside the NCMH had become dire as employees were left to work without PPEs, making them vulnerable to coronavirus infection.

Cortez then wrote a letter asking Avila not to speak on behalf of NCMH, as she was not the designated spokesperson.  After the issue broke out, the Department of Health transferred Avila to the Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center in Las Piñas.

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Eventually, last April 27, the NCMH admitted that 88 of its staffers and patients had contracted the coronavirus, forcing it to limit the admission of patients.

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TAGS:  Roland Cortez, Clarita Avila, COVID-19, Department of Health, DoH, GCQ, general community quarantine, graft complaint, National Center for Mental Health, NCMH, Office of the Ombudsman, Pinoy Aksyon for Governance and the Environment
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