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Philippines

Priest accuses Philippine Health Dept of dodgy dealings

Attack comes after scathing Audit Commission report over budget-spending irregularities

Priest accuses Philippine Health Dept of dodgy dealings

Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque talks during a press conference at the Department of Health in Manila in this February 2020 file photo. (Photo AFP)

A Catholic priest in the Philippines has launched a blistering attack on the country’s Health Department, accusing it of shady dealings after a recent report highlighted healthcare funding irregularities.

The Audit Commission recently submitted a scathing report saying the department did not touch 59.1 billion pesos (US$1.2 billion) of its budget allotment in 2020 despite the onset of the pandemic.

The report also red-flagged “various deficiencies” concerning 42.4 billion pesos worth of transactions that had no supporting documents or receipts.

Society of Divine Word Father Flavie Villanueva said the irregularities suggested corruption within the Health Department.

He said that real evil lies in government transactions that took advantage of the poor during the pandemic.

“Corruption and greed in a time of pandemic and death are truly evil … Covid kills. Corruption kills more,” Father Villanueva said in a Facebook post.

We deserve an explanation of how government funds are spent, especially now that millions of Filipinos are suffering

Father Villanueva also claimed the Health Department is involved in pocketing funds meant for Covid patients.

“This is really sad … And to think that this [alleged corruption] was done in the very institution that is supposed to be saving lives,” he said.

The clergyman pointed to the purchase of four laptops mentioned in the audit that cost the Health Department nearly $14,000.

Father Villanueva called on Health Secretary Francisco Duque to ensure more transparency in his department’s dealings.

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“Please explain these [transactions] to the people. We deserve an explanation of how government funds are spent, especially now that millions of Filipinos are suffering,” he said.

He also posted excerpts from the audit report showing large amounts spent on procuring medical equipment which remains undelivered.

Father Villanueva, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, said the real virus that kills is not the coronavirus but Duterte himself by tolerating corruption within the government.

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