DOH Sec. Francisco Duque
By Junex Doronio
MANILA — FINALLY, A WHIFF OF CORRUPTION BURST INTO THE OPEN when Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon extracted from Health Secretary Francisco “Dingkoy” Duque III that indeed there were shady dealings at the Department of Health (DOH) after the lawmaker threatened to block the approval of the department’s budget.
“I am shocked. I am chagrined,” Gordon exclaimed on Thursday during the Senate plenary debates on the proposed budget of DOH for 2021.
Gordon said that aside from the funds withdrawn for Dengvaxia back in 2015, there was also money pulled for the health facility enhancement program aimed at building barangay health stations.
“In fairness to Secretary Duque, he exposed that. I heard him on TV. The total amount that was withdrawn was P10.6 billion and there was immediate release,” Gordon said.
The motormouth senator from Olongapo City raised the issue of a botched P3.5-billion project to build over 3,000 barangay health stations in 2016. The DOH is still embroiled in a lawsuit with the contractor, JBros Construction Corporation.
It was gathered that in 2018, JBros terminated the contract and billed the DOH P2.9 billion after having built only 270 barangay health stations.
Duque claimed that it was “very defective planning” made by his predecessor, Janette Garin, now an Iloilo congresswoman.
“This is really swindling the country,” Gordon said as he wondered aloud what Duque and the rest of the DOH have been doing to recover the money.
Gordon raised issues concerning public funds withdrawn for several DOH programs in the past.
“This question is simple: Do they agree that there is corruption as a department?” Gordon further pressed on.
Duque then leaned over to Senator Pia Cayetano, who then conveyed the health secretary’s response.
“The answer is ‘yes.’ The Secretary is responding behind me and he said, ‘Yes,’” Cayetano, who was defending the DOH proposed 2021 budget, affirmed.
Gordon then answered: “Thank you, that’s all I wanted to hear.”
The proposed 2021 budget of the DOH was approved after no more senators interpellated.
DOH is proposing a P203.7-billion budget for 2021 mainly focusing on the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law and the government’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. (AI/MTVN)