Ombudsman convicts former Duterte regime officials in the DoH and DBM anomalies during the pandemic

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This article is available in Pilipino

Francisco Duque III, former secretary of the Department of Health (DOH), and Christopher Lao, former Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Undersecretary, both under the Duterte regime, were dismissed from public service, their retirementbenefits forfeited and perpetually disqualified from re-entering government service. This decision came after they were found guilty of the charges of grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service in relation to the anomalies in the spending of government funds during the pandemic.

In addition, the Ombudsman also recommended the filing of corruption charges against them. This is based on the anomalous transfer of ₱41 billion from the DOH to the Procurement Service of the DBM involving the company Pharmally during the pandemic.

Health workers under the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) and Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) supported the Ombudsman’s move. AHW says individuals and government officials involved in these anomalies should be held accountable.

“The order of the Ombudsman to file corruption charges against Duque and Lao is a great relief for our health workers and patients who were victims of the criminal negligence of the DoH and the Duterte administration during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Robert Mendoza, AHW national chairman, said.

He said that the case will also serve as a warning for those in power and other government officials that they will be held accountable for their wrong actions, especially in spending public funds.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, health workers have faced extreme trials and difficulties. These include personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage, extremely long work hours, and insufficient wages. At least 100 health workers died as a result of the pandemic.

“We are furious, and we will not forget that when the pandemic first hit the country, many of our ranks were infected with the virus and others even died due to lack of proper quality PPE, lack of medicine and medical supplies because of the negligence and incompetence of the DoH and the Duterte administration,” said Cristy Donguines, a nurse and president of the Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center Employees Union-AHW. “Then we discover an anomaly in the funding,” she added.

AHW demands holding the DoH accountable for the improper distribution of drugs, medicine and supplies that the agency only hoarded and allowed to expire in its warehouses. The group is exasperated because these could have benefited patients who were then in dire need of free medicine and health services.

In addition to Duque and Lao, HEAD also called for the prosecution and punishment of all those involved in this anomaly, including the Chinese businessman and economic adviser to Duterte, Michael Yang, and Rodrigo Duterte himself. “Government officials should be serving, not using their position for personal benefits,” according to HEAD.

AB: Ombudsman convicts former Duterte regime officials in the DoH and DBM anomalies during the pandemic