MANILA — Senator Raffy Tulfo, dubbed as the champion against corruption, expressed strong condemnation of the extensive corruption allegedly taking place within the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH).
He specifically called out the exorbitant increase in the annual contract for patient food, which surged from P80 million to a staggering P250 to P300 million.
Although Tulfo acknowledged NCMH Chief Dr. Noel Reyes’ prompt action on certain recommendations to enhance the NCMH system, the Senator, during the recent Senate Committee on Health hearing held on May 9, criticized Reyes for allowing such corruption to persist.
It is worth mentioning that Tulfo and his team personally visited NCMH on March 27 to personally witness the condition of its facilities.
“National Center for Mental Health is not the mother of all irregularities as some people think,” he said.
“However, NCMH is the dinosaur of all corruption because corruption has been going on in this facility for ages. And now with the help of my colleagues in the Senate, we will make corruption here extinct, right here right now!” he added.
In the previous P80 million per year contract, the raw food products were subjected to bidding and were cooked by their in-house cooks, along with dietitians inside the institution.
Reyes reasoned that they moved the food procurement from goods to services to avoid the problem of food pilferage, which angered Tulfo. The Senator said that instead of subjecting people involved in stealing food to disciplinary actions, Reyes agreed to outsource the food which is way more expensive.
In this outsourcing scheme, NCMH gave a three-year contract to the outsourcing provider. The first year is bidding, and the second to third year is just renewal and renegotiation.
To make matters worse, Tulfo said the said contract was divided into three separate contracts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that’s why the former P80 million per year contract for food jumped by P250 million until it reached over P300 million every year before the end of the contract.
“Ito ay maliwanag na technical malversation,” he said.
Reyes later admitted that there was a problem with the system and agreed to Tulfo’s suggestion to stop outsourcing the food and allow in-house cooks to cook patients’ meals like with the old practice to help the government save by the hundreds and millions of pesos.
In the said hearing, Tulfo also questioned Reyes for allegedly allowing a certain Engr. Evelyn Purino, a senior employee of NCMH, to give away lands allotted for NCMH for certain projects of some government officials.
In exchange, Purino will be the contractor of the infrastructure along with her son who is purportedly an engineer at the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH).
The Senator from Isabela and Davao also called out Reyes for not speaking out about Sunshine Recovery, a psychiatric center said to be owned by current NCMH officials Dr. Beverly Azucena and Dr. Alden Cuyos.
Tulfo said this is strictly prohibited by law, prompting him to urge Reyes to divest their shares in Sunshine Recovery. Reyes immediately agreed to this.
Reyes also agreed with Sen. Tulfo when the latter said that Azucena and Cuyos should be removed from their post and be replaced by new officials with clean names and no record of corruption.
Ultimately, Tulfo said that NCMH patients do not have the ability to complain so they have been abused for a long time. But he said that from now on, they will no longer be oppressed because they have a voice that is loud and deafening – and that is the voice of the Senate.
“Panahon na para putulin ng Senado ang sungay, pangil at buntot ng lahat ng mga taong sangkot sa katiwalian sa NCMH,” said he. (Amado Inigo/MTVN)