Sen. Imee Marcos said  she will file to abolish the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service (PS-DBM) and the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) which have been dragged into the latest controversies hounding the Department of Health (DOH) over alleged overpriced face masks and face shields in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think they have really outlived their usefulness and instead, with their miserable track record and all these corruption, we keep hearing about or let’s say there’s no corruption — all these inefficiencies we keep hearing about — it’s better for each agency (to do their own procurement),” said Marcos.

Based on documents, Marcos said PITC procured face masks priced at PHP40, and face shields priced from PHP180 to PHP190. 

She noted, however, the documents were incomplete and that the listed costs may even be per pack.

Marcos also questioned why both the PITC and the PS-DBM were needed to procure face masks and face shields, when the DOH continued to acquire supplies by itself.

She said it’s surprising because PHP11 billion is parked in the PITC while the DBM-PS hadPHP16 billion. 

“Add the two and you have PHP27 billion. Why not give that amount to the hospitals and healthcare facilities? Let’s give it now,” she said.

The Senator also raised the possibility of the two agencies not receiving funds under the 2022 national budget.

“I think it’s time that we look at both agencies properly. We will save a lot because they have plantillas, they have undersecretaries who have high salaries. At least all these savings will go to our COVID response,” said. Marcos. 

According to Marcos, she was taking  the role of a key NBI agent for a day after waking up to disheartening news of massive corruption in the DOH procurement amidst the pandemic. 

Earlier, Marcos said DBM-PS had accredited “strange” suppliers for the procurement of medical equipment during the onset of the pandemic in 2020.

She said four suppliers that were allegedly tapped by the DBM-PS for the medical equipment supply are  Bowman Technologies, Inc., Nikka Trading, Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation and Sunwest Construction.

“Of course, Sunwest Construction stood over the others,” also revealed Marcos while questioning  how a building and construction company suddenly became  medical equipment supplier. 

“That is really suspicious. A really strange list,” she stressed. 

The DBM-PS awarded more than PHP9 billion worth of contracts to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation alone.

“Clearly, the DBM-PS accredited people we’ve never heard of before,” said Marcos. She also questioned the company’s compliance to the procurement rules set by the law. 

Marcos also revealed that Pharmally Pharmaceuticals is just the westernized name for 康友公司-KY (Kang You), a biotech company listed in the Taiwan Stock Exchange. Front page search engine results for “康友” reveal that its leaders have active criminal cases in Taiwan for alleged manipulation of KY stocks. 

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also questioned PS-DBM’s procurement of face masks and face shields as flagged by the state auditors in the 2020 annual audit report.

It was found that PS-DBM bought face masks at PHP27.22 apiece and face shields at PHP120 each, which senators said were overpriced. The suggested retail prices were later set at PHP2.00to PHP4.00 per face mask, and PHP26 to PHP50 per face shield.

Lloyd Christopher Lao, a former DBM undersecretary who headed PS-DBM, had earlierdenied that there was overpricing in the purchase of face masks and face shields.

Lao explained that when PS-DBM procured face masks at PHP27 apiece and face shields at PHP120 each, “during that time that was one of the cheapest (prices).” He also said that during the peak of lockdowns last year, supplies of face masks and face shields were scarce since global trade was affected by the pandemic and most of suppliers are importer-distributors.