Ombudsman orders probe on Duque, DOH execs for ‘irregularities’ in COVID-19 response
MANILA, Philippines — Ombudsman Samuel Martires has ordered an investigation on Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other officials and employees of the Department of Health (DOH) over alleged irregularities on the agency’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Martires on Wednesday said he ordered the probe “after evaluating the initial reports that were gathered and upon the recommendation of Asst Ombudsman Caesar D. Asuncion, Asst. Omb. Joselito P. Fangon, and Asst. Omb Jose M. Balmeo, Jr., and in addition to the team created prior to the March 15 ECQ (enhanced community quarantine), to investigate: the purchase of 100 thousand test kits by the Department of Health; and news reports re: use of UP invented test kits.”
“I directed the creation of two more investigating teams who will jointly investigate alleged irregularities and anomalies committed by DOH officials and employees, including Health Sec. Francisco Duque, in relation to the response of the DOH during this pandemic,” he added.
He said the two additional investigating teams will focus on the delayed procurement of personal protective equipment and other medical gear for healthcare workers, and alleged lapses and irregularities that led to the death of medical workers and the rising number of deaths and infected medical frontliners.
The investigation will also focus on the alleged inaction in the release and processing of benefits and financial assistance for medical frontliners who have contracted COVID-19 and those who have died of the disease, as well as the “confusing and delayed” reporting of COVID-19 related deaths and confirmed cases, according to the Ombudsman.
Martires said the Office of the Ombudsman through its field investigation office started its probe a few weeks before the quarantine lockdown in March to look into issues on the DOH’s purchase of 100,000 test kits and those concerning test kits developed by the University of the Philippines.
He said, however, that investigators were given difficulties by some DOH officials and personnel who referred them from one department or office to another.
Martires said the joint investigation team is authorized to file the necessary criminal and administrative cases against the subjects of the probe, as well as against any official or employee who fails or refuses to comply with the legal process, orders, or requests of investigators.
He warned that similar cases may also be filed against any official or employee who will willfully obstruct or hinder the conduct of the investigation or who will willfully mislead or attempts to mislead the Office of the Ombudsman.
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