Five Department of Health (DOH) officials are now subject to a six-month preventive suspension for the alleged delay in the release of healthcare workers’ benefits amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an order signed on October 27, Ombudsman Samuel Martires has suspended DOH Undersecretaries Roger Tong-An, Kenneth Ronquillo, Maylene Beltran, Laureano Cruz, and Esperanza Carating for six months without pay due to neglect of duty and inefficiency as government officials.

Martires explained that the Office of the Ombudsman has imposed preventive suspensions to forestall the involved officials from either tampering with evidence or influencing witnesses.

The Ombudsman reiterated to reporters that the overall pandemic investigation into the DOH is still ongoing.

The suspension of the five DOH officials is part of the probe focusing on the “inaction in the release and processing of benefits and financial assistance of fallen and infected medical frontliners.”

Other areas on investigation include the delayed procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical gear necessary for the protection of healthcare workers; alleged lapses and irregularities that led to the death of medical workers; the rising number of deaths and infected medical frontliners; and the confusing and delayed reporting of COVID-19 related deaths and confirmed cases.

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