MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday defended the Department of Health (DOH) over the issue of its procurement of allegedly overpriced personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing machines needed to fight the new coronavirus pandemic.
In a televised meeting, Duterte said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III was only acting on his orders to do everything he can to fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, regardless of the price.
"I would listen to Sec. Duque, but I gave him the instruction, and I admit it in public now, sabi ko sa kaniya, 'do everything you can...I do not care. If it's not cheap, it is expensive, go, just go ahead and do something about it kasi ipit na tayo dito(because we are in a bind)," he said.
Duterte said he will take full responsibility on the issue.
"So gusto ko lang malaman ng sambayanang Pilipino na I take full responsibility, na ang utos ko na dalian mo, wala akong pakialam kung saan ka magkuha, magnakaw ka, and I remember saying it. I do not care whether you go and steal, borrow or kill a person to get what needs to be done," Duterte said.
(I want the public to know that I take full responsibility, I was the one who ordered him to act fast. I don't care where you get the equipment, whether you steal it, and I remember saying it. I do not care whether you go and steal, borrow or kill a person to get what needs to be done.)
During the same briefing, Department of Budget Management Usec. Lloyd Christopher Lao showed a 9-piece PPE set procured by the government for its frontliners.
According to Lao, the most expensive item in the set is the "Ebola-level" suit, which "can stop even air transmissible viruses."
The coverall is also heat-sealed, which is the same kind used internationally, except in South Korea, he said. A heat-sealed coverall, according to Lao, offers better protection as it prevents fluids from being absorbed into the clothing or skin of a person.
This kind of coverall, however, is more expensive at P1,100, compared to the locally made ones priced at P850.
Lao also said local producers will soon start the production of the PPEs using materials imported from China.
Last week, the Senate quizzed the DOH and the DBM over the alleged irregularities in the procurement of PPEs for frontliners, as well as the allegations that the COVID-19 testing machines and kits bought by government were overpriced.
Senator Panfilo Lacson last Tuesday questioned the DOH and the DBM in a Senate hearing why they bought COVID-19 testing machines and swabbing kits for more than twice the price of similar equipment bought by private companies.
A private firm allegedly bought nucleic acid extractors needed to process coronavirus tests for P1.75 million each, while the DOH, through the DBM, got the machines for P4 million a piece.
During the Senate hearing, Duque has said his office sought the DBM's help in sourcing medical facility suppliers.
Malacañang earlier said that President Rodrigo Duterte is seeking an investigation into the overpriced procurement.