A Philippine ecumenical church group decried the reported misuse of funds intended for the use of the Department of Health in addressing the coronavirus pandemic.
The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) this week called on the people to support efforts in demanding accountability from the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The group said the ongoing congressional probe into the funds of the Department of Health “gets murkier.”
“It is an outrage to learn that people’s money are robbed by these supposed public servants,” read the group’s statement.
The alleged “corruption” in the health department includes the purchase of what are supposed to be “overpriced” face masks and face shields from a company that is allegedly close to government officials.
“Demanding accountability goes hand-in-hand with urgent calls for support for our health and economic frontliners,” read the group’s statement.
On Thursday, Duterte denied allegations that the medical supplies were overpriced, lashing out at lawmakers probing government officials over emergency purchases last year.
“At the height of the pandemic, when it began, we had nothing,” Duterte said in a weekly late-night national address. “It was costly because of lack of supply.”
Opposition lawmakers questioned the government’s emergency deals to buy medical supplies from a lowly-capitalized company with links to government officials.
In budget hearings, health ministry officials were grilled on unspent pandemic funds.
State auditors have flagged “deficiencies” in more than US$1 billion in COVID-19 funds.
“Senate, do not investigate programa which are ongoing. You will derail it by your incessant penchant for investigating government offices,” said Duterte.
With two million confirmed infections and 33,680 deaths, the Philippines has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases and fatalities in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia.
Surging cases driven by the Delta variant are overwhelming hospitals, while healthcare workers have protested to end to what they called government neglect and unpaid benefits. – with a report from Reuters