No amount of theatrics can hide the fact that the Department of Health (DOH) is led by a cesspool of corrupt “public servants” who shamelessly abuse their power to pocket our money. All in the middle of a pandemic, no less, when the agency is the one tasked to supposedly provide equitable and efficient healthcare services to a nation lagging behind COVID-19 relief efforts.
In the 2020 annual audit report for the DOH, the Commission on Audit (COA) had issued an “adverse opinion” on the financial statements of the former, citing material and pervasive misstatements in various account balances.
Alarmingly, the report revealed that there were various deficiencies in the P67.32 billion worth of public funds, intended for efforts to combat the public health crisis. The report also listed close to billions worth of idle and undelivered equipment, expired drugs due to poor distribution systems, and unutilized funds for hospital facilities, among others.
Like a manipulative sad boy, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III cried foul over COA’s report, whining that they lost sleep due to “shame”, and blaming the state auditors for besmirching their dignity.
Even President Rodrigo Duterte brushed off the deficiencies as a result of incomplete paperworks. Adding insult to injury, Duterte demanded COA to “stop that flagging” and quit publishing their reports because “it would condemn the agency” flagged.
Duterte can’t just order COA around to stop doing their job. And Duque, who should’ve resigned a long time ago, should be ashamed for acting so defensively when he’s been nothing but incompetent and blind to the poor state of our public health system.
COA’s mission has always been to safeguard public funds by securing accountability and promoting transparency. The state auditors, as part of the independent body, ensure checks and balances among the government agencies with regards to their expenditures and operations. Through independence of mind and in appearance, COA exists to expose anomalies and fraud that we, the people, deserve to know about in order to demand accountability from our public officials.
If Duterte is indeed against corruption, why does he belittle and bully COA whenever the state auditors flag agencies for missing funds? Is he compensating, covering for his cronies’ guilt by resorting to false bravado and empty threats?
COA’s observations and recommendations are objectively written and based on the pieces of evidence gathered. Although the report did not explicitly state that corruption existed, it doesn’t take a genius to suspect that DOH’s billions of misused amounts do imply corruption.
In the audit report, COA repeatedly noted how the agency’s policies were “lenient” and “lax” in monitoring funds and expenditures, an apparent red flag for risk of misuse and loss. Imeldific and outrageous, some P11.89 million was used to buy video conferencing equipment and license, a drop in the bucket of the total P557.7 million “excessive and unnecessary expenditures” by the DOH.
Further, COA’s exposé only solidifies the lived experiences of Filipinos suffering from DOH’s poor response to the crisis. Beyond the numbers, we live in a reality of hospitals turning away COVID-19 patients because they are in full capacity, some of which have tragically died, or are dying as we speak, outside the building. Our healthcare workers are poorly compensated and overworked to the point of resigning because they feel demoralized. And with the new variants of COVID-19 entering our country, we continue to be among the slowest in vaccine procurement and rollout.
Duque needs to face the music. The people are enraged with how he resorts to manipulating our sympathy, when in reality, his agency has been misusing our funds on God knows where. There is no room for corruption in a country mired and overwhelmed with the public health crisis—no room for half measures and mental gymnastics when people are dying. We deserve better than this.