Health Ombudsman Samuel Martires said other Department of Health (DOH) officials and employees would also be subject to investigation.
“I directed the creation of two more investigating teams who will jointly investigate alleged irregularities and anomalies committed by DOH officials and employees, including Health Secretary Francisco Duque, in relation to the response of the DOH during this pandemic,” Martires said.
The investigation started even before the enforcement of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon on March 15, he said, but said field investigators encountered difficulties in gathering evidence when they were shunted from one division to another.
He warned that those trying to obstruct the investigation or mislead investigators could face charges.
The investigation involves the DOH procurement of the 100,000 test kits, the delayed procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other gear, inaction in the release and processing of benefits and financial assistance for medical front liners who were infected by COVID-19 as well as those who died from it, “confusing and delayed” reporting of COVID-19-related deaths and confirmed cases, and lapses and irregularities that caused the death of the medical personnel.
The DOH on Wednesday said they welcome the investigation and will comply with all directives from the Office of Ombudsman.
In a statement, the DOH said they have been transparent in the COVID-19 response, including procurement transactions and the provision of benefits to health care workers.
The Department has issued all checks to the kin of 32 fallen health care workers and 19 severe COVID-19 patients who recovered on June 9, they said.
New claims to benefits are being processed to this day, it added.
The President had also ordered the National Bureau of Investigation on May 26 to investigate the questions about the procurement of PPEs, machines, and testing kits by the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management.
“DOH officials will willingly cooperate with the authorities to ensure utmost transparency throughout the duration of the investigation and beyond,” the DOH said.
The Palace said it respects the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the alleged anomalies in the Department of Health.
The investigation comes after a majority of senators and some health professionals called for the immediate resignation of Duque for what they said was the inefficient response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Duque was also blamed for poor planning, the delayed response, lack of transparency, and flip-flopping policies and measures in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, which critics said endangered the lives of health care workers and all Filipinos.
Also on Wednesday, Dr. Tony Leachon said he quit as an adviser in the government’s pandemic task force.
On Twitter, Leachon said he would no longer fulfill his role as adviser of the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging And Infectious Diseases (IATF) starting Wednesday.
On Facebook, he also admitted his “differences with DOH policies” such as the department’s seeming lack of sense of urgency over the coronavirus pandemic, its problems in COVID-19 data management, and transparency in communication process.
“I have to align with my True North,” he added.
“It’s with deepest regret that I announce that I am not anymore the Special Adviser of [the] National Adviser-COVID-19 effective today,” Leachon said in a tweet.
“I have my full respect for Sec. Charlie Galvez and we will remain as good friends,” Leachon said, referring to COVID-19 policy chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez.
Leachon said he had “lots of good memories” but had to “move on.” With PNA