BEIJING (Mabuhay) – President Benigno Aquino doesn’t want to decide on Health Secretary Enrique Ona’s fate just yet.
This, after news broke out that Ona and other Department of Health (DOH) officials are being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation for the alleged irregular purchase of vaccines.
Ona has gone on leave to prepare his explanation to the President.
“‘Di ba, sinabi ko naman sa inyo may mga katanungan na dapat masagot? So may pending na investigation. Ngayon, when you ask me to make a judgment, the investigations are pending, his answers also are still pending, parang unfair naman yata to make a judgment. Parang hindi ko na dapat pinaimbestigahan kung may judgment na ako,” Aquino said.
Asked about information that a preliminary report was reportedly submitted November 7 by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in connection with the investigation, Aquino instead replied that there was in fact a prior investigation.
“May mga nakita akong errors sa BAC, for instance, tapos I have relayed the idea – not by the DOJ, ano, by another entity that I tasked. It was the DOJ. Si Secretary Leila (de Lima) kasi is a very thorough secretary. I don’t think she gives me any report that’s less than one-inch. So, ‘di ba, Inekon nasa kanya; black sand mining nasa kanya; etc., etc. So ‘yung output niya siguro, by herself, yearly, hindi siguro bababa ng – hindi exagg[erated] – baka five-feet worth of papers. So medyo pending ‘yon, hindi pa umabot sa akin,” he said.
The President did not say when the first investigation was held. “Hindi ko maalala ‘yung date. Several months ago. Can I look at the papers again just to make sure? Ayoko namang bawiin ‘yung hula ko ngayon.”
“Pero, ‘yon na nga, may dialogue kami with several of his staff – meaning, people at the DOH (Department of Health), umabot ng mga 8:30 to 9; may formal after that. ‘Yung formal, for some strange reason, may mga pages na hindi ko nadiinan ng pansin. Tapos may mga pumatong, ‘yung natabunan. Ngayon na naupuan, nakita ko ‘yung mga errors sa math. Sabi ko, teka muna, ano ba ‘yung sinasabi nitong mga report na ito talaga? So pinako-correct ko ‘yon. Hinihintay kong bumalik rin iyon,” he said.
Aquino confirmed that it was he who asked Ona to go on leave. “I can confirm that. I did.”
Asked if the leave may also be because of Ona’s allergy to dyes, Aquino said,”That might be part of it also. [laughter]”
Aquino doesn’t seem perturbed that there are many allegations of wrongdoing raised against his people.
“Again, ‘pag may tanong may sagot eh, and the truth shall set us all free, ‘di ba. But, again, may processes eh. The processes ensure na wala tayong, ‘di ba, lynch mob; walang death by innuendo. So, again, may entitlement naman siya. May question dito, ano ba talaga ang nangyari diyan? Bakit ganito ang desisyon? Saka he has to be given his time and to be able to respond,” he said.
Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez have been dragged into allegations of corruption over the Iloilo Convention Center. PNP chief Alan Purisima is also facing his corruption allegations.
“Iba-iba standard? Hindi, isang standard. Ano ba ang effect ‘nung… Well, gaano ka-serious ‘yung allegation? Ano ba ‘yung preliminary data diyan to support the allegation? Tapos ‘yung dulo siguro: Are the decisions detrimental to the general public or not? Una ‘yon, ‘di ba?” Aquino said.
Going back to Ona’s case, Aquino said, “Dito, medicine. May isyu: vaccination. At risk ‘yung very young, medyo tumataas na priority ‘yon. ‘Yung ginagawang Iloilo Convention Center, ‘di ba, ano ‘yon e: calculations, blueprints, inventory of materials – ganyan, ganyan. Hindi immediate ‘yung danger as compared to vaccines.”
“Si Alan Purisima naman – balikan ko kayo, ano – ano ba ang output nitong taong ito versus the allegations? Parang kung sasabihin doon – and, again, not to prejudge – may ginagawang investigation ang DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government). ‘Pag sinabi mong ‘money making,’ siyempre, the Chief of PNP, if he was interested in making money can make tons and tons of money. And the allegation, ‘di ba, parang ang layo doon sa potential just from illegal gambling alone. So para bang… Siguro, itong taong ‘to nagnanakaw, o ‘di makita mong… ‘Di ba, kung lifestyle check, what have you, or even the allegations. Pero, balik ako, ‘yung… ‘Di ba, allegations doon sa ICC – so far, ano – seem to be all just politics eh,” he said. (MNS)