Rep. Suarez rises for health moves

by Dong de los Reyes October 6, 2021 Rep. David Jay jay Suarez (Photo from his FB page) LUCENA CITY - House of Representatives on Good Gover...

by Dong de los Reyes
October 6, 2021

Rep. Suarez rises for health moves
Rep. David Jay jay Suarez (Photo from his FB page)

LUCENA CITY - House of Representatives on Good Government and Public Accountability vice-chairman Rep. David Jay jay Suarez rose in defense of the Department of Health over allegations that DOH squandered millions of pesos in taxpayer money to procure protective gear against the Covid-19 onslaught.

Rep. Suarez stressed that the Bayanihan measures passed by Congress and rapidly enacted were emergency steps taken to protect frontline health workers and medical practitioners through protective gear purchased at cost, steeper than the current costs in the market.

Suarez recounted the frantic procurement of face masks when Taal Volcano erupted last year and people were at a loss where to buy; when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in March 2020, people were caught in a similar bind.

"Some were creative enough to cobble masks out of available materials, and in some hospitals, doctors were forced to recycle surgical masks," he cited.

In response for the urgency, Suarez cited that the House passed posthaste the Bayanihan measures for rapid response to pressing needs of the health sector tasked to combat the rising tide of the Covid-19 contagion.

"How many health care workers and doctors did we lose in the earlier phase of the pandemic?" Suarez asked DOH head Francisco Duque.

With over a year since the contagion struck the country in March 2020, the reply hardly satisfied the House panel whose agenda was on alleged overpriced medical and health safety equipment by the DOH during the pandemic.

Suarez cited the Bayanihan law that allowed government to procure goods in the fastest, most efficient way possible to protect government frontliners.

DOH under fire

Published reports have it DOH stood "for the deficiencies in how it handled P67 billion worth of COVID-19 funds, which were detailed in the 2020 report of the Commission on Audit (COA) released on August 11.

"A chunk of the misused funds was the P41 billion transferred to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) without the required memorandum of agreement (MOA) and supporting documents.

"PS-DBM used a huge portion of this amount to purchase for the DOH personal protective equipment (PPE) sets worth P1,910 per set, for a total of P3.82 billion. It was the biggest contract won by the now controversial Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, which turned out to have been incorporated only in September 2019 with a P625,000 paid-up capital."

"In total, Pharmally won at least P8.7 billion worth of contracts for pandemic items, at least P4 billion of which were for the use of the DOH."

Cites COA:"These face masks went for as high as P27.72 per piece, and the face shields for P120 per piece. Not all were sourced from the DOH's P41 billion transfer, as many agencies also coursed their procurements via the PS-DBM. The PS-DBM actually spent at least P20.9 billion buying for other agencies."

Unprepared for the contagion

Suarez said prices in the needful equipments merely followed the law of supply and demand-- "so we are now buying these based on prevailing market prices."

Suarez stressed that the nation wasn't prepared for the pandemic, thus, the panic procurement of PPEs.

PPEs fetched at an atrocious P1.7K to P1.9K at the height of the pandemic.

As of September 2021, a PPE set was pegged at P900.


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