A GROUP of doctors and health experts called on President Rodrigo Duterte to allow key government officials to testify in the Senate investigation into the questionable purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers.

In its manifesto, the group also urged the Department of Justice (DoJ) to create an "independent panel," which would investigate claims of corruption in the Department of Health (DoH).

The more than 300 physicians, including six former officials of the DoH, who signed the manifesto said the Covid-19 pandemic has allowed "free and unrestrained politicians and people with absolutely no competence in running the country, much less this catastrophic health debacle, to abuse power with impunity, misuse and steal taxpayers' money and insult their intelligence, feed on the Filipinos' desperation and helplessness at the time when their plea for true leadership is loudest but has remained unheeded."

"Ito pong alleged na pangyayari na ito ay nangyari sa gitna ng pandemya habang kami po ay nagbubuwis at naghihirap sa pakikipaglaban sa Covid-19 para mailigtas ang mga Pilipinong nagkakasakit (These alleged corrupt activities happened at the height of the pandemic when we were fighting Covid-19 to make every sick Filipino safe)," Dr. Ma. Encarnita Limpin, president of the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), said during a media forum on Monday.

Dr. Norbert Uy, a former president of the PCP, said medical workers have been sacrificing their time and effort to help in the pandemic, so it is only fitting that Duterte "rewards" their efforts by allowing government officials to testify in the Senate Blue Ribbon hearings.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said that government officials had testified in 12 Blue Ribbon hearings before the President issued a memorandum stopping them from further attending the inquiry.

Another former PCP president, Dr. Anthony Leachon, said that when he sat down as a "resource person" in the hearings, he felt that the voices of health workers and the public were not being heard.

The group also wants the Senate to complete its investigation.

Roque said the President supports the move of the Senate Blue Ribbon panel to turn over documents and evidence to the DoJ and the Ombudsman.

Limpin said that while the Commission on Audit found no evidence of corruption in the Health department over the transaction for the PPE, the group still wants the truth to come out.

She said she needs to find out why the DoH passed on the responsibility of buying PPE to the Department of Budget and Management, in the process incurring additional expenses on the part of the government.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said she respects the call of the PCP and other medical experts to let government officials testify freely in the Senate inquiry, but they have already participated in numerous hearings to explain their side.

"The national government has been transparent, at nakapagsumite na tayo sa mga kinauukulang ahensya and the investigations are undertaken, and iwanan na po natin doon (We have submitted [the necessary documents] to the proper agencies, and the investigations were underway, so let us leave it at that)," Vergeire said.