Duterte orders NBI to probe supplier of overpriced test kits

May 26, 2020

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate “very carefully” the overpricing of Covid-19 testing kits by a local supplier.

“NBI should study the matter very, very carefully kasi alam mo...itong mga p*t*ng*n*ng mga negosyanteng ‘to (because you know, these businessmen) whether it’s really an issue of humanity and their greed,” Duterte said in a meeting with top officials late Monday night.

He also warned businessmen against hoarding especially during the prevailing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

"‘Yung hoarding na ‘yan no, you cannot, it’s part of the business practices which you may call not even obnoxious, it’s repulsive to the human mind when you start to think about it,” he said.

He said the national government would "act accordingly" and tackle the issue in a legal manner.

"But let's look at it on what it is legally, sans the maybe 'yung mga suspicion," Duterte said.

Earlier, former Health Secretary now Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin called on Duterte to order an investigation of a ”very enterprising” couple for being linked to the overpricing of Covid-19 testing kits and machines.

Garin claimed that the couple has been operating to make it difficult for the private sector to access testing equipment and supplies unless they agree to purchase overpriced testing materials from them.

She added that the couple has been allegedly hoarding testing kits and had “exclusive distributorship” privilege.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, in the meeting with Duterte, said he did not personally know the couple amid allegations that he centralized all the purchases of test kits and machines through the Omnibus Corporation.

The couple was later identified as Van William and Emily Co.

Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Lao said the Cos owns Omnibus Corp., distributor of Sansure Biotech.

However, he said Omnibus Corp. did not win the bidding because they were selling equipment and supplies at a higher price.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said profiteering can be penalized under the Price Act and Bayanihan Law.

During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Lacson said the Department of Health (DOH) procured 10 nucleic acid extractor machines at PHP4 million each which is more than half the price of the same machines bought by Project Ark, a private sector pushing rapid antibody testing kits, which were priced at PHP1.75 million.

He also pointed out that the DOH bought a swabbing system priced twice as their common price. PNA