This May 20, 2020 photo shows health personnel.
The STAR/Walter Bollozos
Duterte defends DOH amid 'overpriced' PPEs, medical equipment issue
(Philstar.com) - May 26, 2020 - 10:03am

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte defended the Department of Health over the procurement of allegedly “overpriced” protective gear for healthcare workers and medical supplies needed to combat the coronavirus disease in the country. 

In a televised meeting aired late Monday, the chief executive said he earlier ordered Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to procure the needed medical supplies regardless of the cost.

“I gave him (Duque) the instruction and I admit it in public now,” Duterte said.

“I told him, ‘do everything you can.’ He said, ‘there’s so many proposition.’ I do not care. If it’s not cheap, if it is expensive, go—just go ahead and do something about it kasi ipit na tayo dito (because we’re in a tight situation),” he added.

The president also said he will take full responsibility on the issue.

“Gusto ko lang malaman ng sambayanang Filipino na I take full responsibility, na ang utos ko na mag—dalian mo. Wala akong pakialam kung saan ka magkuha, magnakaw ka and I remember saying it. I do not care whether you go and steal borrow or kill a person to get what—what needs to be done,” he said.

(I want Filipinos to know that I take full responsibility on the issue. I was the one who ordered to act fast. I don't care where you get the equipment, whether you steal it. I remember sayying it. I do not care whether you go and steal borrow or kill a person to get what—what needs to be done.)

In the same meeting, Department of Budget and Management Usec. Lloyd Christopher Lao showed a complete set of PPE procured by the government for medical frontliners as he explained that the purchased protective gear meet local and international standards.

Lao said the most expensive item in the set is the “Ebola-level” coverall, which costs P1,100 compared with locally-made suits priced at P850. He said the “Ebola-level” coverall is heat sealed and “can actually stop even air transmissible viruses.”

Last week, Senator Panfilo Lacson said there appeared to be a “clear pattern of overpricing” in the equipment bought by the DOH to combat COVID-19.

In a statement Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who questioned the allegedly overpriced COVID-19 testing package, said he is hoping the president's statement does not in any manner mean to absolve Duque. 

“I call for a fair and impartial investigation despite the President’s pronouncement. These are taxpayers’ money we’re talking about here—to the tune of billions pesos getting wasted due to corruption or gross negligence,” he said.  

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque last week said the president wants the alleged overpricing of medical supplies and equipment investigated. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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