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5 ex-DOH chiefs, groups and docs decry Duterte's attempt to derail pandemic spending probe

5 ex-DOH chiefs, groups and docs decry Duterte's attempt to derail pandemic spending probe

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) and five former health secretaries on Monday called on President Rodrigo Duterte to lift the ban on Cabinet officials participating in the Senate inquiry on the alleged misuse of pandemic funds.

This came after the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) released a letter titled “A Collective Expression of Indignation and the Call to Action” signed by 300 physicians and 44 other health organizations.

The signatories included five former health secretaries, specifically Esperanza Cabral, Carmencita Reodica, Manuel Dayrit, Enrique Ona Jr. as well as former undersecretaries, Suzy Pineda, Juan Pablo Nañagas and Madeleine Valera.

Meanwhile, Cabral added that another former health chief, Paulyn Ubial, already confirmed that she will also sign the statement.

Earlier this month, Duterte signed a memorandum that directed the current Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other members of the Cabinet to ignore the summons and subpoenas of the Senate committee.

“The PCP, the past presidents, and other people who have signed the statement think that the President is actually obstructing the investigation,” Cabral said.

Duterte even ordered the country’s military and police force not to arrest anyone unwilling to attend the Senate’s calls.

“We call on the president not to obstruct the testimony of material witnesses to any investigation,” the groups said in a statement.

“We call on all government officials to support the call for truth, ensure that the wheels of justice grind swiftly and surely, and provide testimony when sought,” they added.

They then urged the Department of Justice to conduct an “immediate, impartial” and “thorough” probe, calling on the Ombudsman to file the appropriate charges.

“Finally, we call on all Filipinos, regardless of political affiliation, to join hands and support the search for the truth,” they said.

Posted by Philippine College of Physicians on Sunday, October 10, 2021

Meanwhile, Dr. Tony Leachon confirmed that the Philippine Medical Association, the primary medical association of the Philippines (PMA), had not included itself as a co-signatory of the protest statement.

“Ako ay nalungkot kasi ang PMA, siya ang mother organization, or umbrella organization ng lahat ng organization ng mga Doktor sa pilipinas,” said Leachon.

(I am sad because the PMA is the mother organization or umbrella organization of all Doctors’ organizations in the Philippines.)

“If they don’t recognize there is a problem and then turn a blind eye to, then you are an accomplice to perpetuating a crime, lalo na kung [ito] ang the highest organization na dapat magtanggol sa mga doktor (especially if it is the highest organization that should defend doctors),” he added.

According to Leachon, “apathy and lack of proactive measures are coming from the mother organization.”

“And it is sad, that this will come at a time na ang leadership ay may vaccuum pala. Kaya andito kami, para ‘yung hinaing ng bawat kaliit liitang healthworker ay magkaboses para makarating sa ating mga decision makers,” the doctor said.

(And, sadly, this will come when the leadership has a vacuum. That’s why we’re here to give every health worker a voice that can reach our decision-makers.)

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