MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros has questioned the flippant attitude of the administration towards the issues plaguing the country’s overall response to the pandemic.
The statement comes as Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III continues to enjoy the full backing of President Rodrigo Duterte amid the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases and the reeling health care system nationwide.
“Ako ay labis na nababahala sa sinabi ng Pangulo noong gabi ding iyon na “I will stand for Duque, even if it will bring me down.” But as the country logs record-breaking COVID-19 cases – with a 25% positivity rate – it may be accurate to say that Secretary Duque has mostly been ineffectual. Secretary Duque suffers from a serious case of incompetence,” the senator said.
Hontiveros also expressed serious reservations about the President’s statements over the weekend that the Commission on Audit (COA) should “reconfigure” its findings.
“If there is anything to configure or reconfigure, it is solely at the discretion of COA at hindi pwede makialam ang Presidente. Why is the President telling the COA to reconfigure? Why should the COA say there is no corruption here? Why should it preempt any investigation on fraud, graft and corruption, and other such malpractices? Sa totoo lang, to a layperson, to “reconfigure everything” sounds like a directive to doctor the books or doctor the data,” she said.
The senator continues to lend her support to the audit report released by the COA last week, saying the agency is independent and is just performing its functions according to the constitution.
“COA red flags are there to tell us how to govern better, but they can also tell law enforcers where to look, and which trail to follow. In many instances in the past, ang COA report ay smoking gun or material evidence of corruption. It cannot stand on its own, but on many occasions, it is an integral part of the chain of evidence that can lead to conviction,” Hontiveros explained.
Hontiveros, who also chairs the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, continued to raise the alarm on expired drugs languishing in DOH warehouses due to the mismanagement of supplies.
“Sa datos na inilabas ng Center for Global Development, kumpirmado ang pagbaba ng access sa essential health care services, partikular sa mga sakit gaya ng hypertension, gastroenteritis, dengue fever, asthma, tuberculosis, atbp. Kaya nga ang ating mga local government officials, lalo na ang mga nasa malalayong lugar, ay galit at nagsusumamo. Bakit, tanong nila at tanong ko din, sa kabila ng kakulangan ng non-COVID medicines and essential health services, may nabubulok na gamot sa mga warehouse?” she asked.
In light of all this, the senator believes the President’s loyalty is misplaced in continuing to stand by the health chief, despite Duque “dropping the ball” on many aspects of the COVID-19 response.
“Hindi pwedeng habang nahihirapan na ang mga kababayan natin sa walang katapusang lockdown, ang Secretary of Health ay sitting pretty at protektodo,” she concluded.