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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

27 September 2021 01:10:14 PM

The House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability is convinced that the government was never put at a disadvantage when it purchased from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. around two million face shields distributed to medical frontliners during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

This developed as officials from the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed in Monday’s hearing of the House panel that all face shields were “properly distributed to and utilized by the health workers.”

During interpellation by committee vice chairman Surigao del Sur 2nd District Rep. Johnny Pimentel, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said none of the health workers complained about the face shields delivered to them.

“Nagamit po ang mga ito. I would like to set the record straight, two million po ‘yong mga face shield na pinag-uusapan natin, and based on the report to me, all two million have been distributed to the different regions,” Duque pointed out.

This was corroborated by DOH Undersecretary Carolina Taiño, who added that the face shields were of “great help to health workers.”

Asked by committee chairman DIWA Party-list Rep. Michael Edgar Aglipay if there is a case where a health worker died for using the face shield, Taiño replied: “Wala naman po sa pagkakaalam namin po.”

During the hearing, Duque also clarified that the established shelf life of face shields is 36 months or three years.

The DOH chief made the clarification after Pharmally official Krizle Mago earlier admitted before the Senate that the company had tampered with face shields supplied to the government by changing the expiry date from 2020 to 2021.

Duque said the matter is already being looked into by the DOH.

In his opening statement, Aglipay said that while he believes the Senate has been “working commendably hard” in conducting its own probe, “it is my humble preference for our good senators to be fair in conducting their investigation, not to bully witnesses, and to let the witnesses speak freely.”

He also reminded his fellow House members that the probe was neither a “witch-hunt” nor “fishing expedition.”

Aglipay, meanwhile, directed the committee secretariat to write a letter to the Senate to produce in the next House hearing on October 4 Pharmally director Linconn Ong, who has been taken into custody by the upper chamber for his evasive answers during the hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

The committee was also poised to issue a subpoena to compel Mago to testify before the House panel on October 4 after she failed to appear in Monday’s hearing. It was earlier reported that Mago could no longer be contacted after her revealing testimony in the Senate.

Aglipay insisted that the House probe was meant to “thresh out the truth, without political bias or agenda”—a statement supported by Pimentel.

Pimentel said that during the two previous hearings conducted by the House, “we were able to clarify some issues regarding some misconceptions.”

He noted that it was already established that the procurement process was legal and aboveboard considering that the procurement process was based on the provisions of Bayanihan 1 law, which exempts COVID-19 goods and services from the coverage of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

“We were also able to find out that the requirements that were needed for the negotiated procurement under emergency cases, it’s not the same as the requirements needed for the competitive bidding,” Pimentel said.

“So, meaning, it was established that the procurement of goods funded by Bayanihan 1 Act are exempted from Republic Act 9184,” he added.

Pimentel also noted that there was no overpricing on goods procured under Bayanihan 1, as no less than Commission on Audit Chairman Michael Aguinaldo, as corroborated by his staff, that the issue at hand is not the overpricing. “In fact, in their report, they never mentioned the overprice of the goods,” he said.

He pointed out that all the goods were delivered, inspected and accepted before payment was made, contrary to claims by some quarters that there were ghost deliveries.

“It was also found out that there were other supplies for PPE and masks, again contrary to the misconception that there was only one supplier, which was Pharmally, cornered the bulk of P42 billion, as testified by resource persons, especially USec Lao,” Pimentel added, referring to former Department of Budget and Management Undersecretary Christopher Lao. #