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Ombudsman Will Investigate Duque for Anomalies in COVID-19 Response

This comes just weeks after senators called for Duque's resignation.
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Ombudsman Samuel Martires has authorized the investigation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other health officials for the Department of Health’s (DOH) response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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There are currently 26,781 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, with 6,552 recoveries and 1,103 deaths. Data suggests that the curve is still not flattening despite more than two months under lockdown.

According to Martires, the team will investigate the reported anomalies and irregularities in the DOH’s COVID-19 response, including the delayed procurement of essential personal protective equipment and the delayed and confusing reports of COVID-19 cases.

The Office of the Ombudsman will also look into the DOH’s lapses that led to the untimely deaths of more than 2,000 health workers as well as the late release of assistance to these fallen workers.

DOH officials will also face criminal and administrative charges, as authorized by the Ombudsman, as a result of giving the investigation team the “runaround” when Duque’s investigation was initiated.

In response to the Ombudsman’s investigation, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said, as per GMA News, “We respect the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) to probe Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III and other health officials over the alleged irregularities in the COVID-19 response.

The Ombudsman, as we all know, is an independent constitutional body; thus, we will let the process run its course as we enjoin Secretary Duque and the entire DOH bureaucracy to cooperate with the investigation and respect the orders of the OMB.”

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DOH has also responded to the Ombudsman:

"The Department of Health welcomes the investigation and will comply with all directives from the Office of Ombudsman. The DOH has been transparent in its COVID-19 response, including procurement transactions and the provision of benefits to healthcare workers.

"DOH officials will willingly cooperate with the authorities to ensure utmost transparency throughout the duration of the investigation and beyond."

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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