Duterte wants probe into alleged overpriced COVID-19 tests, equipment
Photo shows the Mega Swabbing Center in Philippine Sports Stadium in Sta Maria Bulacan, taken on May 20, 2020.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
Duterte wants probe into alleged overpriced COVID-19 tests, equipment
(Philstar.com) - May 22, 2020 - 4:05pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte wants a probe into alleged overpriced COVID-19 equipment, his spokesperson said Friday.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in an interview with radio dzMM that the president is “bothered” by the supposed discrepancy in prices of COVID-19 testing kit bought by the private sector, against the purchase of the government.

“He wants answers... and investigation,” Roque added.

“He (Duterte), like the rest of the public, does not understand why the discrepancy (in prices) is that wide,” the presidential spokesman also said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Thursday flagged the Department of Health’s purchase of nucleic acid extraction machines which are used to test for COVID-19 from American manufacturer Kingfisher for P4 million while the private sector purchased machines from Chinese firm Sansure for less than half the cost at P1.75 million. 

He also questioned DOH’s spending of $32 on each swabbing kit when they can be bought from Chinese firms for $12 per kit. 

Private groups can purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for P1,079 a piece, or P900 less than what the government pays.

Roque earlier said he would refer the matter to Undersecretary Jesus Melchor Quitain of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President, as he cited “conflict of interest” due to the pendency of cases that he, as a private lawyer, filed against the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

Overpriced COVID-19 testing

Sen. Franklin Drilon earlier questioned the COVID-19 test package priced at P8,150 saying it was overpriced.

In a statement Friday, Drilon welcomed the move of PhilHealth to cut the price of its COVID-19 test package by half, which now costs P4,210 according to the senator.

The senator however insisted that PhilHealth could still set the price at P3,500, which is the amount the Philippine Red Cross set for the test, or even lower.

“If COVID-19 tests could be done for as low as P3,500 as proven by Red Cross, which emerged as the lead testing center for COVID-19, then there is no justification for higher rates set by PhilHealth,” he said in a statement, Friday.

"This is a victory for better governance and anticorruption drive. Our triumph has proven that our collective voice is stronger than ever. It is critical to be more vigilant against corrupt practices during the time of a pandemic," Drilon also said.

PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales said the state insurer will review its existing benefit package for COVID-19 patients and will release new and lower rates next week. — Kristine Joy Patag with reports from Bella Perez-Rubio

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: August 6, 2020 - 2:33pm

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the bill that grants him special powers to address the novel coronavirus outbreak in the Philippines. Bookmark this page for updates. 

August 6, 2020 - 2:33pm

The government needs to launch a second round of the Social Amelioration Program to help people through the recession, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon says, adding the 16.5-percent decline in the country's GDP was worse than expected.

"We need to do a second round of social amelioration program. We should expand it but we must retain those families who received the first tranche because they are the ones who are badly hit by the pandemic," Drilon says.

"There is no sense that they were included in the first tranche but were delisted in the second tranche. Their lives did not become better after receiving the first tranche. They are the ones who continue to experience hunger every day. The government should provide for them until the pandemic is over," he says.

President Rodrigo Duterte last Sunday said that the government has no more money to provide financial and food aid.

July 29, 2020 - 9:08am

Six senators file a resolution ruging the Commission on Audit to conduct a special audit on COVID-19-related government spending, loans and donations.

Sens. Risa Hontiveros, Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Leila de Lima, Ralph Recto and Panfilo Lacson ask COA to release its findings before the Congress deliberates on the 2021 national budget.

"Whereas, Congress is set to deliberate on the 2021 budget and, anticipating that massive allocations will need to be made to address the health, economic and social impacts of COVID-19, it is of critical importance that there be audit findings to guide legislators in their exercise of the power of the purse," the resolution read.

July 28, 2020 - 3:31pm

The Senate has passed the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act — the sequel to the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act — on third and final reading, News5 reports.

The bill was passed with a vote of 22-1.

July 3, 2020 - 4:44pm

Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima says President Rodrigo Duterte continues to "play victim and recite his weekly lamentation 'wala na tayong pera' despite his emergency powers and a trillion-peso debt expedition.

"Duterte’s Bayanihan Law just expired and it left us no better than we were before. Sa madaling salita, PALPAK," the senator says.

"Tanong ng bayan – “saan ginastos ang pera at mga inutang?” Your answer is probably as good as mine," she adds.

June 25, 2020 - 12:53pm

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says the Palace wants to extend the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act to address future needs like in Cebu City.

The city was placed on lockdown amid the increase of COVID-19 cases.

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