Duterte pressures Ubial to speed up purchase of AFP medical equipment

MANILA, Philippines – Speed up the procurement of medical equipment for military hospitals or someone will be axed.

This was supposedly President Rodrigo Duterte's warning to Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial out of his frustration for the delay in purchasing various equipment for hospitals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

"Kaya sinabi ko kay Ubial, 'Do it in 60 days, or do it this month. Kung hindi ninyo palitan 'yang procedure, kayo ang palitan ko.' Si Secretary Ubial mismo," said Duterte on Thursday, July 6. 

(So I told Ubial, "Do it in 60 days, or do it this month. If you can't replace the procedure, I'll replace you.")

He was speaking to soldiers in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. Duterte had promised to improve military hospitals during his first months into the presidency.

Of late, the delays in acquiring the hospital equipment have been among his usual topics in speeches to military troops, but it's the first explicit warning to a Cabinet secretary.

Previously, Duterte had issued a warning to judges who supposedly issue temporary restraining orders to stop projects after accepting bribes from losing bidders.

It was supposedly this modus operandi which caused the delay of equipment for military hospitals. A losing company protested the winning bid.

Duterte said he didn't care about the steps in a bidding process. What matters to him is that the procurement is done swiftly to address the urgent needs of soldiers, many of whom have been deployed to fight terrorists in Marawi City.

"Don't give me that shit about a bidding process. Eh kung wala namang magnanakaw diyan sumasali, bakit patagalin 'nyo nang gano'n (If no one is stealing from those who joined [the bidding], why delay it)?" he said. 

"I said, 'Change the procedure or I will change you,'" he added.  

Duterte then promised soldiers they would not be the "last" in his government. 

"You are as important as me in this government. Your life is not less important than mine," he said.

He promised to get them the "best" defense equipment and repeated his commitment to stop purchasing secondhand equipment from other countries. 

By the end of his term, he might even double the number of fighter jets being used by the Philippine Air Force.

"There are 12 FA-50s there. Maybe when I'm on my way out, probably it will be 24. We will have a credible Air Force for our country," he said. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.