Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Ombudsman orders suspension of 33 DBM, DOH officials over ‘overpriced’ pandemic supplies deal

THE Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the suspension of 33 officials of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Department of Health (DOH) over their alleged involvement in the “highly irregular” procurement of medical supplies at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

In an order issued by Ombudsman Samuel Martires, among the officials meted with six months suspension was Overall Deputy Ombudsman Warren Rex Liong, former procurement group director of the Procurement Service of the DBM (PS-DBM).

Out of the 32 others, 22 were from PS-DBM including Christine Marie L. Suntay, Fatimah Amsha A. Peñaflor, Joshua S. Laure, Earvin Jay I. Alparaque, Julius M. Santos, Paul Jasper V. de Guzman, Dickson T. Panti, Karen Anne Requintina, Rodevie Cruz, Webster Laureñana, Sharon Baile, Gerelyn F. Vergara, Abelardo Gonzales, Jez Charlemagne Arago, Nicole John Cabueños, Ray-ann V. Sorilla, Chamel Fiji C. Melo, Allan Raul M. Catalan, Mervin Ian D. Tanquintic, Jorge L. Mendoza III, Jasonmer L. Uayan and August M. Ylangan.

The nine officials from the health department were: Crispinita A. Valdez, Amado Tandoc, Lei Lanna Dancel, Dave Tangcalagan, Jhobert Bernal, Kenneth Aristotle P. Punzalan, Rose Marasigan and Maria Carmela Reyes.

The order also covers resigned DBM Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao.

The order was in relation to the complaints filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros and former senator Richard Gordon for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

"After a careful evaluation of the records, this Office finds compelling reasons to place the respondents under preventive suspension pending investigation of the instant case. The overwhelming documentary proof shows that respondents’ evidence of guilt is strong," the order reads.

The filing of complaints stemmed from the conduct of a Senate inquiry on pandemic supplies procurement after it was flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA).

Gordon, then the chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee that spearheaded the probe, reiterated the glaring “unwarranted benefits and advantage” bestowed by PS-DBM to Pharmally, which was tagged as the country’s biggest supplier of medical needs amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite only having a P625,000 startup capital, Pharmally bagged at least a P8.6 billion contract from the PS-DBM for the procurement of face masks, personal protective equipment and Covid-19 test kits on behalf of the DOH.

Lawmakers tagged the items procured from Pharmally as “overpriced.”

The DOH transferred P42 billion of its Covid-19 pandemic funds to the PS-DBM for the procurement of the supplies identified as common supplies. (SunStar Philippines)

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