MANILA – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Tuesday called the Commission on Audit's report on deficiencies in the Department of Health’s (DOH) PHP67.32 billion allocation for the Covid-19 pandemic response as unfair and unjust, saying the issue damaged the dignity of the agency and its workers.
During a House hearing on the COA report, Duque said he and other health officials have been losing sleep as COA's 2020 audit report regarding the supposed deficiencies in managing the pandemic funds brought down the agency's morale.
He said the DOH was not even given the chance to submit a rejoinder to the audit report that was based on preliminary observations.
“Winarak na ninyo kami eh, winarak na ninyo ang dangal ng DOH. Winarak ninyo ang lahat ng mga kasama ko dito, hindi kami makaharap sa mga tao dahil lahat ang dami-daming sinasabi, ang dami-daming paratang. Wala pa rin akong tulog, ilang gabi na po ito (You've damaged us. You've destroyed DOH's dignity. You've damaged every one of us here and we cannot face the people because of several accusations. I haven't had enough sleep yet for days),” he said.
He said COA should consider the fact that the DOH is not operating under normal circumstances, but rather in a state of public health emergency.
"Masakit po talaga sa amin ito dahil kami ho ang pangunahing ahensya na humaharap, tumutugon sa panahon na ito. Sabi ko nga sa inyo, nagkasakit na ang mga tao ko, nag-isolate, nagquarantine, may namatay na, pero Diyos por Santo, maawa naman kayo, kayo nga ang pumunta dito at kayo ang gumawa? (It really hurts us because we are the primary agency at the forefront of [Covid-19]. I've already told you that a lot of my workers have isolated themselves, quarantined, and some of them even died. But by God, by saint, have mercy on us. Why don't you come over here and do our work)” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte attributed the deficiencies in the DOH’s allocation for Covid-19 response efforts in 2020 to “incomplete paperwork.”
Duterte, in his pre-recorded Talk to the People aired late Monday night, said it is “pure b***s***" to claim that the COA-flagged DOH funds had been stolen.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, however, clarified that Duterte is not threatening COA when the President slammed its findings on the DOH’s deficiencies in managing the Covid-19 funds.
Roque said Duterte is merely venting frustrations since the public has already condemned the DOH based on COA’s “initial observations.”
“I don’t think he made any threats. He expressed frustrations kasi nga kung babasahin mo ‘yung mga nalathala based on the preliminary observations eh para bang hindi ginastos ng Department of Health ang [PHP67] billion sa panahon ng pandemya (because if you read the reports based on the preliminary observations, the Department of Health did not spend the [PHP67] billion amid the pandemic),” he said.
Roque said it is only normal for Duterte to defend the DOH, since it is unfair for the agency to be judged based on an audit report that has not yet been completed.
He, nevertheless, welcomed the COA’s move to issue a clarification that the observed deficiencies in the handling of pandemic funds are not conclusive of corruption.
The COA earlier flagged the DOH’s supposed failure to comply with existing laws and regulations in managing around PHP67.32 billion in Covid-19 response funds.
The DOH said the funds flagged by COA are “accounted for” and properly used for the pandemic response.
The COA’s findings have prompted calls for Health Secretary Francisco Duque’s resignation.
Despite renewed calls for Duque to resign, the Health chief continues to enjoy Duterte’s ��full trust and confidence,” Roque said.
“All Cabinet members serve at the pleasure of the President, and Secretary Duque, according to the President last night, continues to have his full trust and confidence,” he said. (PNA)