Lacson says DOH ‘mafia’ may be behind waste of medicines; Duque vows probe
MANILA, Philippines — The “recurring” problem of wasted funds – over P2.7 billion in the past eight years – because of expired, nearly expired and overstocked medicines may be the work of a “well-entrenched mafia” within the Department of Health (DOH), Senator Panfilo Lacson said Wednesday.
Lacson raised this during the Senate blue ribbon committee’s investigation into the health agency’s use of its 2020 pandemic funds.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III immediately pledged before senators that he will order an investigation on the issue.
“Magpapaimbestiga po ako nito. Lalo na ‘yung sinabi ninyo na ‘yung may mafia,” the DOH chief said.
Before this, Lacson, citing documents from the Commission on Audit, said that over P2.7 billion have been wasted from 2013 to 2020 due to expired, overstocked, and nearly expired drugs.
“These are recurring issues. Hindi lamang sa panahon ni Pangulong Duterte, ‘di lang sa panahon ni Sec. Duque bilang DOH secretary pero recurring ito eh at saka ang laki ng nasasayang,” he said.
“What does this tell us? Sa akin, dahil I’ve been an investigator all my life, ang ini-indicate sakin nito is, probably merong mafia na well-entrenched na hindi nabubuwag, na hindi naa-uproot, hindi nae-extract, na nandiyan nananatili sa DOH.”
“Sana kung isang taon lang tapos nawala, maaaring kapabayaan lang, pero pattern na po ito eh,” Lacson added.
In raising his concerns over the DOH’s procurement of medicines, Lacson recalled that Duque, in his Commission on Appointments hearing in 2018, committed to addressing “the procurement and disposition of supplies to avoid unutilized and idle inventories.”
The senator pointed out that a year after Duque made the commitment, the number of wasted funds due to expired, overstocked, and nearly expired drugs even “ballooned” from P378.169 million in 2018 to P2.2 billion.
“Unless the secretary or the leadership of the DOH will really put his foot down and do something about his, hindi matatapos itong overstocking ng gamot,” Lacson said.
“Kung ako ang nasa position, gagawin ko agad, titignan ko, may mafia ba dito? bakit taon-taon ganito?” he asked.
“Di ba mas maganda po na pagaralan nating mabuti? I don’t want to believe that you (Duque) have been co-opted because, I don’t believe that,” he added.
Aside from assuring a probe on the matter raised by Lacson, Duque said the DOH’s procurement supply chain unit has been imposing reforms.
“Yung development to the national procurement and supply chain management strategic plan, meron din tayong upgrading of the warehouse operations manual, ‘yung development of forms and improvement of process and notification,” the DOH chief said.
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