Duque admits corruption in past DOH projects

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III admitted there was “corruption” in some of DOH’s projects after Sen. Richard Gordon threatened to block the agency’s 2021 national budget approval.

During the Senate’s deliberations for DOH’s budget for 2021, Gordon questioned the public funds withdrawn for several DOH programs in the past.

Gordon said that aside from the Dengvaxia program in 2015, DOH also withdrew money for the health facility enhancement program at barangay health stations.

“In fairness to Secretary Duque, he exposed that. I heard him on TV. The total amount that was withdrawn was P10.6 billion, and there was immediate release,” Gordon added, speaking partly in Filipino.

In 2016, the health department signed a P3.5-billion contract with J. Bros Construction for building barangay health stations in public elementary schools.

The contract showed that 3,200 stations should be built for the program’s first phase.

DOH previously said only 270 stations were built, and J. Bros Construction demanded payment of P2.1 billion for accomplishing the first and second phases of the project in March 2018 when it terminated its contract.

Senator Pia Cayetano, who the DOH budget, said the Court of Appeals wanted the agency to pay the contractor for the completed units and “whatever the [Commission on Audit] decides is due to the contractor based on quantum merit.”

Duque admits corruption in past DOH projects

She added that the contract with J. Bros Construction was terminated, and it was already blacklisted. However, “but such a decision was overturned” by a Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC), said Cayetano.

“Thus, the DOH, with the [Office of the Solicitor General], is questioning this RTC decision. This case is pending before the RTC of Manila,” Cayetano added.

But Gordon said: “I am shocked. This is really swindling the country… Those people are really daring. So what are you doing about it, Secretary Duque? What are you and your lawyers doing about it?”

“Do you agree that there was corruption here?” he asked. “‘There’s corruption.’ I want that on the record as stated by the Department of Health.”

Cayetano and Duque did not give a straight answer to the question, prompting Gordon to threaten that he would block DOH’s budget.

“The question is simple: Do they agree that there is corruption as a department?” he asked.

Cayetano responded, “The answer is yes. The Secretary was responding behind me, and he said yes.”

“Thank you, that’s all I wanted to hear,” Gordon said.