In February of this year Senator Panfilo M. Lacson called out Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III for the failure of its department regarding the “contact tracing” failure of the DOH for finding the remaining 83 percent of the 331 airline passengers who boarded with the Chinese tourist who alleged died from Covid-19 in the Philippines. According to Lacson, Duque’s leadership is a failure and the secretary “looks for scapegoats instead of correcting the mistakes and taking immediate actions” to solve the problem related to the so-called outbreak.
This is because, according to the report, Secretary Duque blames his personnel with regards to the measures for tracing the passengers who sat near the Chinese person on airlines Cebu Pacific, coming from Hong Kong. Secretary Duque also blamed the airlines for not providing the passengers’ details, including addresses. However, the Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific, the airlines that took the Chinese tourist,denied this “accusation” from Duque.
Accoring to the PAL’s statement which Lacson forwared to the Senate, “We confirm that we released to the Department of Health (DOH), through the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ), the full unredacted manifest of our 25 January 2020 flight PR2542 from Dumaguete to Manila, which includes the contact details of the passengers on the flight. We are also assisting the BOQ in the call-out of the passengers. We will always do our part to cooperate fully with the responsible authorities when it concerns the health and safety of the general public. We released manifest to BOQ last Jan 31 2020 on the request of BOQ. Our VP Safety emailed Dr Oba, head of BOQ (DOH) T2 NAIA.”
To this Lacson said, “It is failure of leadership, plain and simple. It is up to the appointing power to act. It is not for me or the Senate to suggest or advise what to do with Secretary Duque.”
Meanwhile, On March 27, Lacson again commented against the Health Secretary regarding another issue. This time it is about mass testing. Lacson stressed out that the mass testing being suggested will only prioritize those persons who are over 60 years old, those who are believed to be exposed and those believed to have symptoms. According to the senator, this demographic only constitutes 10 percent of the population in the country.
It can be remembered that Senator Lacson exposed Secretary Duque last year regarding the DOH official’s involvement in several government contracts. This claim was supported by documents “obtained” by Inquirer and Senato Panfilo Lacson himself. It was said that Francisco Duque’s family own a pharmaceutical company that earns millions of pesos from various medical supplies through these government contracts, through the DOH. According to Senator Lacson, “two of the supply contracts bagged by Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc. (DPI) lasted until October 2017, when Duque was appointed health chief for the second time”.
The Senator also added that Duque’s appointment was an “apparent breach of the law prohibiting conflict of interest among public officials”. Duque denied this and said he had nothing to do with these issues because, according to him, “he assumed office on Nov 6, 2017; after the contracts were finished”. Senator Lacson’s keen interest in the “corruption scandal in the state-owned health insurance firm” was inspired by Mr. Duterte’s encouragement for calling out against wrongdoing by public official”.
In addition, the senator also discovered that PhilHealth “had overpaid certain private hospitals, as mentioned in the Inquirer series of investigative reports”. Senator Lacson said in those interviews that “PhilHealth released P5 million to pay for medical services to members rendered by a private hospital that had asked for only P200,000”. He then commented, “That’s an incremental increase of 2,500 percent. Where did the overpayment go?”
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