By Ben R. Rosario
A former Department of Health executive yesterday called on President Duterte to dismantle a “Mafia-like” group in the Department of Health whose influence could have extended to the halls of Congress.
Dr. Francisco Cruz, who claimed to have headed a DoH office during the term of the late Health Secretary Juan F. Flavier and former Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, claimed that former Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial was a victim of arm twisting tactics of the DoH group that colluded with key officials of the Aquino administration in the controversial P3.5-billion Dengvaxia anti-dengue vaccination program.
Appearing in a weekly news forum in Quezon City, Cruz disclosed that a senior administration solon approached Ubial to pressure her into lifting her order suspending the administration of Dengvaxia.
Ubial apparently caved in to pressure as she no longer objected when a joint congressional panel did not act on the legislative recommendation in early 2017 for the further suspension of the Dengvaxia program.
However, Obial was removed as DoH chief after the powerful Commission on Appointments rejected her appointment to the Cabinet.
Cruz said the group that facilitated the highly questionable Dengvaxia program under the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III remains intact in the DoH and that Duterte must dismantle the syndicate by dismissing its members. “They can produce money out of nothing,” he claimed.
Former Health Secretary Janette L. Garin was fully aware of the existence of the so-called DoH mafia but Cruz cannot categorically confirm whether or not she is involved.
“All I can say is that we have to investigate the P23-billion health facility enhancement program during the time of Garin. The P12-billion procurement of medicines program also should be looked into,” said Cruz.
Cruz said the irregularities in the implementation of the two projects are the handiwork of the DoH mafia that was able to operate within the department due to their political connections.
“I am very sure that some of the projects implemented were ghost,” said Cruz as he pointed out that mere paperwork produced huge money for the syndicate.
Ferdinand Topacio, counsel for Cruz, said they have gathered evidence linking Garin and Aquino to the Dengvaxia mess, claiming that the two can be liable for plunder.
Topacio said the names of members of the DoH mafia and those of government men behind the Dengvaxia controversy will be submitted to the Anti-Money Laundering Council to help determine culpability to criminal prosecution.