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PIA Press Release

Ombudsman to help probe buried medicines at Pangasinan Capitol compound

By Danny O Sagun

Dagupan City (17 June) -- The Ombudsman is now involved in the investigation on the discovered cache of medicines buried in at least two places at the provincial Capitol compound in Lingayen town.

Assistant Ombudsman Mark Jalandoni, in a letter to Gov. Amado T. Espino, Jr., said that the graft probe body had taken cognizance of the case and was sending two field investigation officers to help in the probe which also involved the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

Earlier, Espino directed Executive Assistant Paterno Orduna to make initial investigation on the buried medicines said to be worth P1.7 million to P2 million based on current prices. The medicines were dug up at the engineering motorpool compound and at a vacant lot at the back of Sison Auditorium.

Orduna, executive officer of the provincial disaster coordinating council, begged off to name the names of possible persons involved in the anomaly particularly the witnesses earlier interviewed to shed light on the issue during the Engkwentro sa Lenox forum Wednesday where he detailed thru a powerpoint presentation the events leading to the discovery of the buried items and the progress of the investigation.

He said that he received an anonymous letter on March 10 last year. Another anonymous letter was received last June 1 in which a sketch was provided as to the location of the items at the engineering compound. The area was excavated and indeed the items were dumped there.

Among those interviewed was a "ranking official" of the provincial health office who denied having any hand in the dumping of the medicines and other medical supplies at the motorpool area but admitted participation in the disposal of expired items at the Sison Auditorium, Orduna said. But the other witnesses, he said, pointed to the official as a leading figure in both instances.

Initial investigation showed that the Commission on Audit had indeed inspected on February 14, 2005 expired medicines as requested by then provincial health officer Edwin Murillo. Orduna noted however that the requested items for disposal from the COA was very small compared to the bulk of medicines dumped in the two areas.

The witnesses, he said, claimed that a six-by-six truck and an owner jeep were used in hauling the items. The truck made three trips, he said quoting them.

He said the probe would determine who gave the order to dispose of the medicines.

In the Engwentro forum a week earlier, former Gov. Victor E. Agbayani, now second district congressman, dismissed as bloated the estimated worth and quantity of the medicines and the other medical supplies. He said that medicines expiring is usual in hospitals, adding that the medicines might had been donated and not purchased by the provincial government because since 2000, he pointed out, his administration already implemented the pooled procurement system where medicines were bought in bulk and delivered direct to the 14 government hospitals.

He asked for a fair and objective investigation to establish facts so as not to "make mountains out of a molehill."

But Orduna maintained that he was pursuing the probe without any politics in mind and that he was only after the truth. He gave no deadline for the investigation noting the needed effort in tracing back records.

He at the same time welcomed suggestions for an independent fact-finding body to do the job. (PIA Pangasinan) [top]

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