Zarate: Deficiencies in handling of P67B DOH funds ‘border on criminal negligence’
MANILA, Philippines — The Makabayan bloc renewed its call for the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III over the deficiencies in the handling of the over P67 billion funds of the Department of Health, with one lawmaker even saying that the act “borders on criminal negligence.”
The opposition bloc in the House of Representatives made the remark after the Commission on Audit (COA) found deficiencies in how the DOH managed its P67.32-billion fund to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. COA said that the deficiencies contributed to challenges that the country faced during the health crisis.
“Hindi lang ito (This is not just) an act of being inefficient. Hindi lang ito kapabayaan (This is not just neglect), this borders on criminal negligence, if I may say so,” Zarate said in a press briefing.
“Dahil ang P67 billion na ito, kung nagastos ng maayos ng DOH ay nakapagsalba ito ng maraming buhay,” he added.
(This P67 billion, if the DOH had used it properly, it would have saved many lives.)
ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro and Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat likewise slammed the alleged corruption in the DOH, specifically criticizing Duque over what they called as misuse of government funds.
“May kapal pa ng mukha si Secretary Duque na sabihin na walang korapsyon. ‘Yung misuse of fund, yung mga pri-nocure na medicine na malapit na maexpire o nag-expire na, wala bang korapsyon dito?” Castro said.
(He had the audacity to say that there is no corruption. The misuse of funds, the procurement of medicine that is near expiration or has expired, is that not corruption?)
“Nag-iba na ang konteksto ng DOH sa kasabihang ‘Health is Wealth’. Imbes na matulungan ang mga nangangailangan ngayong panahon ng krisis pangkalusugan, ang DOH ay pinanatili na malusog ang kanilang bulsa—talaga namang ‘health is wealth’ para sa mga namumuno sa gobyerno,” Cullamat said.
(The DOH’s definition of “Health is wealth” has changed. Instead of helping those who need assistance in this time of medical crisis, the DOH is maintaining their fat pockets — it is truly “health is wealth” for those in government.)
Meanwhile, kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Jane Elago said there should be transparency on the side of the DOH, stressing that the health department should have a full account of all COVID-19 funds.
“Sa P67 billion kaya na nitong doblehin ang buong pondong nilalaan para sa buong public health program ng DOH. Kasama pa yung 70 plus na DOH hospitals, at ang mga special hospitals,” Elago said.
(With this P67 billion, it can double the funds needed for the whole public health program of the DOH, including the 70 plus hospitals of DOH as well as the special hospitals.)
COA’s annual audit report for DOH in 2020 revealed that the deficiencies are caused by non-compliance with pertinent laws and regulations, which led to missed opportunities for the department primarily tasked with managing the pandemic.
These issues, COA said, cast doubt on the regularity of transactions, while keeping much-needed funds at bay and unspent.
Duque, meanwhile, assured that all transactions of the DOH are accounted for and documented, otherwise officials and employees would go to jail.
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