Hontiveros bares ‘evidence’ on ‘overpriced’ PPE purchase
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday hit back at Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Mike Defensor as she bared “evidence” of the allegedly overpriced government procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) sets.
Hontiveros previously said the government may have lost at least P1 billion in public funds after the Department of Budget Management (DBM) purchased from April to May allegedly overpriced PPEs, mostly from Chinese firms.
“You want evidence? Here are 11 pieces. DBM should plainly explain these contracts. Huwag nilang linlangin ang taumbayan gamit ang pagpapa-ikot ng maling impormasyon. (They should not deceive the Filipino public) What we need is clarity,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
“Representative Mike Defensor also came out to defend DBM, claiming that what the agency procured was cheaper than that procured by the previous administration,” she said.
Defensor, over the weekend, said Hontiveros’ claims are “baseless” and are being used as a “smokescreen” to hide the same actions that the previous administration did under the presidency of Benigno Aquino III.
But the lady senator said Defensor could just seek for a probe or file cases if the government did procure overpriced supplies in the previous administration.
But as a senator during the current administration, Hontiveros said she is “simply exercising our Congressional oversight.”
“May nakita kaming mali, kaya kinukwestiyon,” she said.
(We saw something wrong, that’s why we are questioning it.)
Hontiveros sent to the media a table and a copy of the 11 contracts entered into by the DBM from April to May.
The said table detailed the name of the manufacturing company, the price of each PPE set, the number of units acquired, and the total money spent by the agency.
While the DBM did sign four contracts with local companies, including Hafid N’ Erasmus, which had the cheapest PPE cost at only P1,700, Hontiveros said the DBM signed more contracts with Chinese companies, whose costs were higher.
“Huwag din sabihin ng DBM na walang kakayanan nung umpisa ng pandemya ang lokal na mga kumpanya. As early as February 6, binalita na na ang Bataan-based firm called Medtex ay kayang gumawa ng 2 million face masks monthly,” Hontiveros said.
(The DBM should not say that local companies had no capability to produce supplies. As early as February 6, Bataan-based firm Medtex announced that they have a capacity to produce 2 million face masks monthly.)
“At meron din silang sister company under the Medtec Group of Companies na nagproproduce ng PPEs. Bakit hindi sa mga katulad nila nag-negotiate ang DBM? Bakit inuna ang foreign companies?” she added.
(They also have a sister company under the Medtec Group of Companies that can produce PPEs. Why didn’t the DBM negotiate with companies like them? Why favor foreign companies.)
Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao, who heads the procurement service of the DBM (PS-DBM), had already denied Hontiveros’ allegation.
“That’s not true. It’s unfair to say that,” Lao said in an earlier interview with the Inquirer.
The senator, meanwhile, pointed out that the Department of Health had released Department Circular No. 2020-0157 and 2020-0144 which instigated a price freeze for supplies needed for the government’s COVID-19 response, covering March 23 to April 13.
This price freeze meant that the eight components of procured PPE sets could only cost a maximum total of P945, Hontiveros noted.
“Of the 11 contracts, three of these are in the same time period as DOH’s price freeze. Almost P1,000 lang dapat ang cost ng isang PPE set kung sa local companies binili. But no, DBM opted to transact with Chinese firms,” Hontiveros said.
“Kaya kung tutuusin, ang P1 billion overpricing is highly conservative. Mukhang mas malaki at mas malalim pa ang pangungupit,” she added.
(That’s why the P1 billion overpricing is highly conservative. It seems that a higher amount was lost.)
Hontiveros renewed her call for answers from the DBM.
“We have so many questions for the DBM, and again, we do need answers to better inform our budget deliberations in the Senate,” the senator said.
“Dapat narin maumpisahan na ang audit ng COVID-19 funds hindi lang para sa kaduda-dudang mga PPEs na ito, pati narin sa lahat na ginastos ng gobyerno,” she added.
(The audit of COVID-19 should also begin not only of the questionable purchase of PPEs but also of how the government spent COVID-related funding.)
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