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Senators welcome Ombudsman probe of DOH irregularities.

By Mario Casayuran

Senators welcomed the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the Department of Health (DOH) for alleged anomalies in the purchase of medical equipment as well as its weak leadership in containing the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

"Alam ninyo (you know) I welcome the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate DOH officials, trabaho nila yan (it is their job), mandated by the Constitution po yan. The Filipino people deserve fair and impartial investigation," Senator Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, said.

Go, however, implored that the fight to contain COVID-19 should not be slowed down as the Ombudsman's probe on alleged delayed purchases or acquisitions gets underway.

Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" M. Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said the Office of the Ombudsman has the "expanded" constitutional right to undertake investigations "motu propio" (unilaterally) even without complaints.

After describing Duque as a good man and a gentleman, Angara recalled that he was one of the 14 senators who had signed a Senate resolution asking the DOH chief to offer his voluntary resignation as DOH chief.

Compared to the overcapacity at government hospitals in the past months, these hospitals now have reduced 30 to 40 capacity rates, Angara said, citing the government-run Philippine General Hospital (PGH) is one of the health facilities managed professionally.

This might mean that the DOH is doing something right although there are still criticisms that contact tracing is one of its weakness, he added.

Go stated that he is one of the senators who slammed the DOH for its failure to immediately give to the families of health frontliners, including physicians, who died or were hospitalized after treating COVID-19 patients.

On reports that the DOH is suffering from low morale as a result of the Ombudsman probe, Go said that DOH personnel or officials have nothing to fear if they have not done anything illegal or wrong.

"Trabaho lang kayo, hayan nyo at trabaho ng Ombudsman ang mag investigate, wag kayo ma pressure, kung walang kinakatakot at walang tinatago walang dapat ikatakot (Continue with your work. Let the Ombudsman conduct is investigation. Don't allow yourselves to be pressured if you have nothing to hide.)," Go said.

"Labanan muna natin itong COVID-19 at pag nalampasan natin ang laban na ito, taas noo po kayong haharap sa Filipino na tinalo natin itong COVID na wala kayong ginawang masama (Let us fight COVID-19 and after overcoming it, we can walk with our heads high to face our countrymen, aware that you have done nothing wrong)," he explained

Asked during a DWIZ radio interview whether Duque should resign or file a leave of absence, Go said it is up to the health secretary to decide, but his continued stay in office depends on the President, the appointing power.

Since the President has stated that Duque should continue as DOH chief, Go said: "Hayaan na muna nating magtrabaho (Let him do his work)."

"Ako po nagsabi na rin po ako ng opinion na mahirap magpalitan ng kapitan sa gitna ng digmaan. So ibig ko pong sabihin may panahon yan kung dapat managot, kasuhan kung may pagkukulang, kaya po tayo mayroon Ombudsman (I've already said that it is difficult to change horses at midstream. But those with shortcomings should be made to explain before the Ombudsman)," he said.

Go, a former Special Assistant to President Duterte, said the President himself does not want to change horses at midstream although it is conceded that the DOH has shortcomings.

"Maraming pagkukulang kaya nga po pinapatulungan na nya sa iba't-ibang retired military na member ng Cabinet - si (Defense) Secretary (Delfin) Lorenzana, (Interior) Secretary (Eduardo) Ano, Secretary Carlito Galvez - para to step up the fight against COVID (There's a lot of shortcomings that why the DOH is being helped by retired military officers who are in the Cabinet)," he said.


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Title Annotation:National; Department of Health
Author:Casayuran, Mario
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jun 21, 2020
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