Senator Panfilo Lacson, who initiated the graft and corruption inquiries, said Sunday he received information that DOH bought “grossly overpriced” medical supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical frontliners.
Senator Bong Go said in a Viber message to the Inquirer, “The funds made available to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the needs of our people at this crucial time should be accounted for — up to the last centavo — and the public deserves to know how it is spent.”
Sen. Francis Pangilinan meanwhile said, “It’s unconscionable how some individuals could even think of exploiting the purchase of medical supplies for their selfish ends, if reports are true.”
“It’s very disappointing and depressing to know that there are public officials who take advantage of the people’s crisis. They should be jailed and then throw away the keys,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.
Angara said the Senate blue ribbon committee should investigate the alleged purchase, and the Office of the Ombudsman should charge those involved.
Lacson reports overpriced medical supplies purchased by DOH
Senator Lacson revealed the anomalous purchase also included polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests swabbing system.
“Initial figures that we obtained indicate grossly overpriced government-purchased health products like nucleic acid extractor and swabbing system for PCR-based tests, as well as for PPE,” Lacson told the Inquirer.
“The difference runs to hundreds of millions of pesos, if not billions [of pesos] in public funds—if we consider the volume—compared to those bought by private foundations and organizations,” he said.
Lacson said DOH bought each swabbing unit for $32, which could be purchased for only $12 at cost from China.
Senator Grace Poe revealed earlier DOH’s 1 million sets of PPE were “overpriced” by as much as P1.4 billion. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, however, denied Poe’s allegations.
Lacson is still verifying whether the DOH bought medical supplies are at the same quality as those purchased by private organizations.
“That said, I think it is hard to imagine that credible private groups would resort to purchasing and using low-quality health products in performing their [good] Samaritan work,” he said.
“While [the country is in] a crisis, someone is trying to take advantage of the opportunity for selfish [reasons] when you should seize the opportunity to help the country during a crisis,” he added.