Duque says ‘no regrets’ in fund transfer to PS-DBM that led to Pharmally deal
MANILA, Philippines — Outgoing Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Monday said he has no regrets transferring funds to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM), sincemore lives could have been lost otherwise.
“No, I would not have done that differently because I will have to—this is a whole of government approach…I trusted the institution. I did not trust personalities. And PS-DBM is an attached agency of DBM,” Duque said in an ANC interview.
“No regrets. There’s no evidence of wrongdoing. We gave them all the documents, unfortunately, they did not include documents that countered their official findings,” he added, referring to the findings of the Senate blue ribbon committee.
Asked if he felt that the Senate panel had been unfair in its probe, Duque answered in the affirmative.
“Yes, to me and to all those who have implicated but only had in their heart to save lives, to protect lives of our healthcare workers. They were dying,” the health chief said.
The Senate blue ribbon committee began its investigation into the government’s pandemic-related transactions after the Commission on Audit (COA) found deficiencies in the Department of Health’s (DOH) handling of response funds.
During the course of the inquiry, some senators had repeatedly questioned the DOH’s transfer of some P42 billion to the PS-DBM for the purchase of pandemic response supplies.
A portion of this amount went to over P8.6 billion worth of contracts awarded to Pharmally in 2020.
Senators doubted the financial capacity of the firm since it was only established in 2019 with a small capital of P625,000 when it secured the supply deals.
“If I did not do what I did, we could have lost more lives, more doctors and nurses would have lost lives. Can you imagine that? And I’m sure, if that would have happened, they’re going to call me again and say ‘you’re guilty of criminal negligence, hinayaan mong mamatay yung mga doktor, nurses, med techs.’ No, no, no, hindi namin kaya, P41.4 billion is such a huge amount. We never procured at that level,” Duque said.
“Ang pinakmataas namin na procurement siguro, P5 billion to about 6 billion [worth of] vaccines…Hindi namin kakayanin, what would have been the untold consequences? Many more doctors would have died,” he added.
With less than a month left before he steps down from his position, Duque once again denied there was overpricing in the procurement of pandemic-related supplies, specifically personal protective equipment (PPE) sets.
“Sabi nila, overpricing. COA never said anything in its report that there was overpricing. Anong overpricing? DOH in 2015–hindi ako secretary diyan—2015, 2016, PPEs ang kanilang presyo when they bought was P3,500. More expensive. Sa amin ang nilagay namin sa suggested retail price, P2,000 with more components,” he said.
“Lumabas ba yan sa investigation? No, hindi yan lumabas sa report. Ang dami naming, mounds of documents,” he added.
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