Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a Senate resolution seeking to look into the systemic graft and corruption that has long besieged the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) to eliminate dishonest and illicit activities from the health facility.
In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 538, De Lima underscored the need to also investigate the apparent inaction and inordinate delay of the Office of the Ombudsman on the complaints of corruption inside the institution despite the renewed calls for their resolution.
“There is an urgent need to look into NCMH’s state of affairs, particularly the systemic graft and corruption therein that have cost the country millions in taxpayers’ money to dubious spending, and the life of a doctor who only intended to cleanse the NCMH from debilitating corruption,” she said.
It may be recalled that then NCMH Chief Dr. Roland L. Cortez was the one who bared the corruption scandal that gripped the government-run mental facility when he filed charges before the Ombudsman against NCMH top officials last July 15, 2019.
In his complaint, Cortez cited findings made by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on irregularities in the award of the project to extend NCMH’s Pavilion 6 to Octant Builders.
Apparently, then NCMH Chief Administrative Officer Clarita Avila who oversaw engineering works in the NCMH, was actually an incorporator of Octant Builders. Cortez said Octant Builders monopolized projects in the NCMH.
Roughly year after he filed the said charges before the Ombudsman, Cortez and his driver were shot dead in Quezon City by motorcycle-riding assailants last July 27, 2020.
The Quezon City Police District (QCPD) later named Avila as the person behind the murder of Cortez, with QCPD Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit Chief Major Elmer Monsalve postulating that the murder was orchestrated after Cortez initiated the anti-corruption investigations to cleanse the NCMH.
De Lima lamented how the Ombudsman took no action on the case alleging corruption in the NCMH despite repeated calls from concerned bodies for the prompt resolution of the complaints, and the duty of the Ombudsman under “The Ombudsman Act of 1989” to give priority to complaints involving large sums of money and/or properties.
“Graft and corruption has long marred the NCMH. The systemic corruption inside the Center was first exposed by Dr. Cortez in 2019. The complaint has languished in the dockets of the Ombudsman despite news reports disclosing that according to the Sandiganbayan, the Office of the Ombudsman’s cases versus erring officials dropped by 80.46% in 2019,” she said.
“Despite the record-low decrease in the number of cases that the Office of the Ombudsman elevates to the Sandiganbayan, the complaints that shed light into the crippling corruption inside the institution at the forefront of the country’s quest to promote holistic mental wellness, especially crucial in these times, have withered in its dockets,” added De Lima, a staunch mental health advocate.