The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday welcomed the investigation of Office of the Ombudsman over alleged irregularities and anomalies in the handling of the country’s Covid-19 response.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires ordered the investigation of DOH officials and employees, including Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

“[DOH] welcomes the investigation and will comply with all directives from the Office of Ombudsman. The DOH has been transparent in the COVID-19 response, including procurement transactions and the provision of benefits to healthcare workers, the health department said in a statement.

Among those to be investigated are DOH’s delayed acquisition of personal protective equipment, late release of cash aid to medical frontliners and their families and delays in reporting of Covid-19 cases.

The DOH changed its daily reporting of Covid-19 numbers last May 29 to show “backlogged”cases, or test results that came out more than five days since validation.

Since making the change, it has reported 6,159 “late” cases and 8,533 “fresh” cases.

The department said it had completed the distribution of financial assistance to medical frontliners who had contracted Covid-19 and families of those who died due to the disease.

“DOH officials will willingly cooperate with the authorities to ensure utmost transparency throughout the duration of the investigation and beyond.”

The Palace welcomed the Ombudsman probe.

“We respect the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) to probe Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III and other health officials over the alleged irregularities in the COVID-19 response,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.

“The Ombudsman, as we all know, is an independent constitutional body; thus, we will let the process run its course as we enjoin Secretary Duque and the entire DOH bureaucracy to cooperate with the investigation and respect the orders of the OMB.”, John Ezekiel J. Hirro