Ombudsman orders filing of graft case vs Duque, Lao

MANILA. Former Health secretary Francisco Duque III.
MANILA. Former Health secretary Francisco Duque III.PCO photo

THE Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the filing of a graft case against former Department of Health (DOH) secretary Francisco Duque III and former Procurement Service (PS)-Department of Budget and Management (DBM) executive director Lloyd Christopher Lao.

“Wherefore, finding probable cause to prosecute respondents Francisco T. Duque III and Lloyd Christopher A. Lao for violation under Section 3(e) of RA 3019, let the corresponding information be filed against them in the proper court,” stated the 49-page Ombudsman resolution.

Republic Act (RA) 3019 is also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The case stemmed from the alleged irregularities in the DOH's transfer of P41.4 billion funds to PS-DBM for the procurement of medical supplies at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

Complainants in the case were former senator Richard Gordon and Senator Risa Hontiveros, who spearheaded a Senate investigation on the Covid-19 supplies procurement after it was flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA).

Gordon, then the chairman of the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, also known as Blue Ribbon Committee, stressed 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.

Pharmally bagged an at least 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, despite it only having a startup capital of P625,000.

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

Aside from Duque and Lao, also named respondents in the case were DOH undersecretaries Ma. Carolina Taiño, Myrna Cabotaje, and Roger P. Tong-an; Crispinita Valdez, Napoleon Arevalo, and Enrique Tayag, all Director IV of the DOH; Leopoldo Vega, DOH undersecretary of finance; and Lorica Rabago, DOH chief accountant.

The complaints against them were, however, dismissed. (LMY)

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