Former Health Secretary Janette Garin (left) and Incumbent Health secretary Francisco Duque III (right)
PASAY CITY, Philippines – Former Health Secretary Janette Garin stressed that the worsening state of healthcare facilities in the country during her term prompted the construction of barangay health stations (BHS).
Garin argued that during those times, around 20,000 BHS were to address the health care needs of communities.
She blamed her successors in the Department of Health (DOH) for the failure of the project, an accusation that the current Health Secretary dismissed.
“The leadership decision of the succeeding secretaries not to support the project if ever this is true might have led to the unsuccessful completion of the project,” Garin said during Wednesday’s (July 4) Senate inquiry on the BHS anomaly.
Secretary Francisco Duque III was quick to react saying they were just recipients of the flaws in management of previous DOH heads.
“We are at the receiving ends all of these. We are trying to fix the mess because the planning was just I think it’s very deficient and very defective to begin with,” he argued.
The issue stemmed from a 2017 audit report of the Commission on Audit (COA) which revealed irregularities in the planning and construction of 5,700 BHS in public schools from 2015 to 2016 specifically the validation of BHS locations and the implementation of the project despite lack of proper guidelines.
A barangay health station located inside Barangay Balumbato Elementary School in Quezon City
Aside from constant delays, the BHS project was not completed.
Senators expressed dismay since the fund used for the BHS project came from DOH’s savings in December 2015 coinciding with the release of the special allotment order (SARO) for Dengvaxia.
“Does this become a proactive habit na ire-realign, gagamitin ang savings kapag alam ninyong hindi gagamitin (Does this become a proactive habit, the realignment of savings when you know that it is not going to be used)?” questioned Senator JV Ejercito, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography.
Garin clarified that the equipment procured during her time was only capable of conducting small check ups, in defense to the accusation that sets of medical equipment were procured even prior to the construction of BHS.
For its part, J Bros Construction Corporation as the project’s contractor claimed that the project’s implementation lacked proper guidance that’s why it was terminated.
“Not only that they do not know about the project. Sometimes the sites are not even available. There’s no space in the school or they have issues,” revealed J Bros’ Board Member Atty. Julieanne Jorge.
During the hearing, Garin dared Duque to challenge her in court over the BHS mess. – Nel Maribojoc / Marje Pelayo