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Filipino doctors want truth behind Covid corruption claims

Physicians call for a probe over allegations that Health Dept officials misappropriated public cash to fight the pandemic

Filipino doctors want truth behind Covid corruption claims

Health workers from the government-run Philippine General Hospital hold placards as they ask the government to release their risk allowances amid rising Covid-19 infections in Manila on Aug. 26. (Photo: AFP)

Angry doctors in the Philippines have called for the truth to be told following allegations that public funds meant to fight the Covid-19 pandemic were misappropriated by Health Department officials.

Physicians from at least 10 respected medical institutions issued a statement on Oct. 6 expressing outrage over the allegations.

They included doctors from the Philippine College of Physicians, Philippine College of Chest Physicians and Philippine College of Geriatric Medicine.

“We as healthcare professionals are utterly outraged by the alleged corruption related to the purchase of personal protective equipment, especially during a pandemic,” they said.

“While we risk our lives taking care of patients … it is loathsome to hear that there may be people exploiting the situation.”

The doctors were referring to a 12 billion peso (US$237 million) contract awarded by the government to a firm called Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation to purchase equipment like face masks and shields.

We cannot remain silent, nor will we sit and watch these allegations just disappear before us. We want transparency, exigency, and accountability

Critics said the cost of the equipment was overpriced.

In September, opposition lawmaker Richard Gordon launched an investigation when it emerged Michael Yang, a former adviser to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, was closely linked to the firm.

It also emerged that the company was formed only last year with $12,500 in capital and that there was no clear business address.

The doctors said that since their lives were at stake in fighting Covid-19, they deserved to know the truth about what was going on.

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“We deserve to know the truth about this issue. We cannot remain silent, nor will we sit and watch these allegations just disappear before us. We want transparency, exigency, and accountability,” they added.

The doctors urged lawmakers to conduct a swift investigation and not allow it to be overshadowed by the upcoming elections.

“If there is substantive evidence [of corruption], the Senate should immediately pass the case to the Justice Department for prosecution,” they said.

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the vicar apostolic of Taytay in Palawan, said no one should turn a blind eye to corruption.

“Everyone must participate in the call to end corruption, especially if people die because of it,” Bishop Pabillo told UCA News.

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