Robredo urges public to watch Senate probe on pandemic supplies deals

Vice President Leni Robredo speaks during a press conference on February 16, 2021 in light of the decision of the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), to dismiss the entire electoral protest filed by defeated candidate Bongbong Marcos. 

MANILA — Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday urged the public to “watch” a Senate panel’s investigation into the government’s purchase of supplies for the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Hindi ko alam kung napapanood ng mga kababayan natin itong mga hearing. Pero sana, oo, para mabuksan naman ang mga mata nila,” Robredo said in her weekly radio program.

(I don’t know if our fellow Filipinos are watching these hearings. But I hope they do, so their eyes will be opened.)

Robredo expressed frustration over the use of billions of pesos to purchase allegedly overpriced medical supplies, including substandard face shields from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.

“Ang daming mga kababayan nating namatay. Kulang ang mga health workers sa ospital, kulang ang medical equipment. Itong kinita dito, kung doon napunta, eh di ang dami sanang buhay na nasalba,” she said.

(A lot of Filipinos died. We lack health workers and medical equipment in hospitals. If what was spent on these supplies were used for those, we could have saved lives.)

The Philippines has logged a total of 2,470,175 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of Saturday, including 165,092 active infections and 37,405 deaths.

An executive of Pharmally admitted last Friday that the company swindled the government by selling substandard medical-grade face shield with bogus production dates.

On Sunday, Sen. Richard Gordon, who heads the Senate blue ribbon committee that is conducting the investigation, said the executive — Krizle Mago — can no longer be reached.

Refuting findings of some senators that the supplies purchased from Pharmally were overpriced, President Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly hit the Senate probe and also personally attacked Gordon.

Gordon had said that public funds wasted on supposedly anomalous transactions with Pharmally could have been used for the benefits of health workers who are fighting COVID-19 in the frontlines.

Meanwhile, in the same radio show, Robredo frowned at what she described as a “threat” from Duterte to use the military to scare people during the 2022 elections.

“Over the years, kung sino man ang pangulo, basta kinakailangan ‘yong tulong nila, lagi silang andiyan. Pero sana ‘wag sanang gagamitin para takutin ang mga mamamayan. Ang militar, kakampi natin ‘yan, ‘di naman kailangan katakutan,” she said.

(Over the years, whoever is the president, the military is always there to offer assistance when needed. But I hope we don’t use them to scare the people. We’re supposed to be on the same side as the military, we don’t need to fear them.)

Robredo gave the reaction after Duterte warned that he may call on the military to ensure the peaceful and orderly conduct of next year’s elections.

The chief executive did not mention if there have been intelligence reports on any organization planning to use violence or force in next year’s national polls.

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