President Rodrigo Duterte holds a medical-grade face shield during his talk to the nation Monday night as he asks the DOH for explanation on why it matters in the Senate hearing. (Screenshot from RTVM's live broadcast)

President Rodrigo Duterte is perplexed as to why the expiration date of face shields is so significant that it is being scrutinized by the Senate as part of an ongoing investigation into the alleged questionable procurement of medical supplies from Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp. at the outbreak’s onset last year.

Even non-medical-grade plastic face shields, the president said in his Monday night speech to the nation, would last a long time and would not expire if properly cared for.

The president asked the issue after the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee inquiry revealed that a warehouse worker said Pharmally provided health personnel with expired face shields worth billions. This information was verified by Krizel Grace Mago, regulatory affairs head of the pharmaceutical company on September 24.

“Paano ito mag-expire. Unless abusuhin mo, itapon-tapon mo. Pero kung isuot mo lang at ilagay mo lang ng magandang pagkalagay, ganoon. Paano mag expire yan? Well, mag-expire — but maybe in about 10, 15 years. Yan mag-expire yan dahil sa scratches, hindi sa pag-alaga,” Duterte said on the medical-grade face shield.

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“Kung maalagaan mo lang ‘yan, matagal ‘yan. Talagang obvious na ito sila [Sen. Richard] Gordon, wala ng ibang mahanap na pupuwedeng ibato na issue against officials of the executive,” he added.

The face shields described at the Senate hearing, on the other hand, were medical-grade ones with foam block and garter that had a shelf life of around 36 months, according to Department of Health (DOH) Sec. Francisco Duque III.

They were purchased via the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM), along with other medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE). He said that all medical supplies purchased by the DOH have been inspected for quality and quantity.

“Yon pong face shield na pinag-uusapan, ito yong binili ng DOH mula sa PS-DBM na sila naman ang bumili mula doon sa kompanyang Pharmally. Yon pong medical-grade na face shield katulad nito, yon nga lang mayroong foam sa bandang taas na kapag sinuot, yong foam yon ang nagde-deteriorate sa mahabang panahon. Nag-bri-brittle ang foam,” he said.

Hindi natin tinanggap ang mga supplies nang hindi ini-inspect ng ating DOH inspection team,” Duque added, citing the PS-DBM also has an inspection team in accordance with technical specifications.

Duque said that he has already directed key officials from the Department of Health’s procurement and supply office to look into the tampering of expiry dates that Mago revealed to the Senate.

“Lumabas doon sa Senate hearing na talagang may pinakita, may ibinunyag, isiniwalat ang isang empleyado ng Pharmally na tinamper daw po yong production date. Yong 2020 production date ginawang 2021, so kami naman po sa DOH inataasan ko na ang procurement and chain of supply office na bantayan ito ang tingnan,” Duque said.

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