Senate probe on ‘premeditated plunder’ should lead to convictions
As COVID-19 has raged on, corruption in government has also been exposed. The report on the health department’s mismanagement of P67 billion for the pandemic response has triggered protest actions by health workers from public and private hospitals. Their protest actions have gathered tremendous support and sympathy from different sectors, the public, doctors, and other health professionals. Even the World Health Organization has recognized the health worker’s plight.
Who are responsible for the plunder of public funds? It was to lawyer Lloyd Christopher Lao of the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III entrusted P42.4 billion of the Department of Health (DOH) funds. President Duterte admitted he had appointed Lao to the PS-DBM. Lao was Mr. Duterte’s election lawyer in 2016. Lao was also the assistant secretary at the Office of the Special Assistant to the President, formerly headed by Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go.
What about Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.? This is a subsidiary company of Pharmally International Holding Company; its executives are associates of Mr. Duterte’s former economic adviser Michael Yang, and these executives have active criminal cases in Taiwan for alleged manipulation of stocks.
On March 17, 2017, Mr. Duterte was in a meeting with Pharmally executives and Yang, as Malacañang video footage shows.
It is a big question why Mr. Duterte has been defending Yang, Duque, and Lao while at the same time castigating the Commission on Audit and the senators investigating the P42-billion anomalous transaction of the DOH. He has admitted ordering Duque to transfer the amount to fast-track the procurement of medical supplies without bidding. Duque has also admitted his failure to execute a memorandum of agreement with the PS-DBM.
Who will be made to account for what is turning out to be “premeditated plunder,” in the words of Sen. Franklin Drilon? As the Senate investigation continues, people are hoping that such investigation will not only be in aid of legislation, but, more importantly, will lead to convictions. I am one of them.
Ruth Elio, registered nurse, national council member, Health Alliance for Democracy Inc., [email protected]
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