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Ex-DOH chiefs back call to let officials join hearings on pandemic spending

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
Ex-DOH chiefs back call to let officials join hearings on pandemic spending
Composite photo shows former Department of Health secretaries (L-R) Esperanza Cabral, Manuel Dayrit, Carmencita Reodica, and Enrique Ona.
Photos courtesy of DOH, Ateneo de Manila University, Cancer Coalition Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — Former health secretaries have joined a call by medical groups urging President Rodrigo Duterte to lift the bar on Cabinet officials participating in legislative hearings on alleged corruption in the government's pandemic response. 

Health professionals said they are outraged and frustrated over corruption claims surrounding government's pandemic spending, adding it was "sickening to hear that there are people who may have exploited the situation."

"The people deserve to know the truth," a statement signed by 45 groups said. "We decry any attempts to withhold testimonies and cover up what really happened."

 

Posted by Philippine College of Physicians on Sunday, 10 October 2021

 

In a briefing on Monday, former health chief Esperanza Cabral said she, along with three other former secretaries of health, have signed the said petition. 

That would be doctors Carmencita Reodica, Manuel Dayrit, and Enrique Ona. Cabral added Dr. Paulyn Ubial, Duterte's first DOH chief, has also committed she would join the call. 

Other signatories included ex-health undersecretaries and doctors Suzy Pineda, Juan Pablo Nañagas, and Madeleine de Rosas-Valera.

"They have joined health workers outside government and leaders of medical organizations for our statement of indignation and call to action," Cabral added in Filipino.

Duterte has repeatedly fumed over the ongoing Senate investigations into potential overpricing in pandemic response supplies such as face shields that the government bought and distributed to healthcare workers.

His office has since released a memo to formalize his directive barring officials from those hearings.

Last week, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the country's pandemic response, skipped the upper chamber's inquiry. 

The Senate, as part of the legislative branch, is independent of the executive. Its members have since scored Duterte's move as unconstitutional.

"We call on the president not to obstruct the testimony of material witnesses to any investigation," groups said. "We call on all government officials to support the call for truth, ensure that the wheels of justice grind swiftly and surely, and provide testimony when sought."

Medical organizations also urged the Department of Justice to conduct an "immediate impartial and thorough" probe on the case, and called on the Ombudsman to file the appropriate charges to those responsible. 

"Finally, we call on all Filipinos," groups added, "regardless of political affiliation, to join hands and support the search for the truth."

The Philippine College of Physicians led the statement, with signatories including the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, among others. 

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH ENRIQUE ONA ESPERANZA CABRAL FRANCISCO DUQUE III MANUEL DAYRIT PAULYN UBIAL PHILIPPINE COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS RODRIGO DUTERTE SENATE OF THE PHILIPPINES
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