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Ombudsman to probe DOH over Covid response as PH cases shoot past 27k

17 June 2020

By The SUN

Philippines' Covid-19 tally as of Jun 17 

The total Covid-19 tally in the Philippines has gone up to 27, 238, after 457 more cases were recorded today, Jun 17.

Most of the additional cases, which numbered 342, were new, and occurred in Metro Manila. The day’s tally included 268 new recoveries, and 5 deaths.

The continuing rise in infections came as the Philippine Ombudsman, Samuel Martirez, announced that it is investigating the Department of Health over its response and management of the coronavirus pandemic.

The inquiry will cover the DOH’s purchase of 100,000 test kits, delayed procurement of personal protective equipment for health care workers, the rising number of deaths and infections, among medical frontliners and the delayed payment of benefits to them, and the confusing reporting about the number of Covid cases in the country.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has already been questioned in the Senate over the alleged gross overpricing of the test kits, for which President Rodrigo Duterte had set aside a budget of Php3.3 billion. 
Duque is also being blamed for the government's failure to fall way below its target of  conducting 30,000 tests daily, resulting in the continuing rise in infections. 

Lately, Duque was taken to task by Duterte himself over the delay in the payment of benefits to medical workers stricken by the coronavirus.

If irregularities are uncovered in any of these areas, Martires said he would order the filing of necessary charges against Duque and other health officials.
DOH has been accused of overpricing the test kits, and not doing enough tests 
In a separate interview, Martires lamented about his office being given the runaround by DOH when it asked for documents on the purchase of the test kits in March.

"When we wanted to get some documents, some data, who are the persons, wala. pinagturu-turuan lang kami, (they gave us the runaround)” Martires told GMA News.
"Kaya ngayon, seryoso ako ngayon, ituro-turo mo kami? Ah! Kakasuhan ka kaagad. Hindi ako nagbibiro ngayon,” he added. (So now, I am serious. You’re giving me the runaround? Ok, I will file a case against you now. I am not joking).

The Ombudsman made special mention of the high number of healthcare workers who have died in the line of duty, saying those who allowed this to happen should be held to account.

He also said the DOH’s recent classification of Covid-19 cases between “fresh” and “late” was confusing, and smacked of an attempt to fool the public.

 “We're not just talking here about how many houses were blown away by the typhoon 'di ba? We're not talking here of how many bridges were destroyed,” he said. We're talking here of lives. We're talking here of the safety of the people.”

The DOH said it welcomed the Ombudsman’s probe.
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