Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has not stolen any public funds, President Duterte declared Tuesday, as he rejected calls for Duque’s removal from office.
The President has vouched for the integrity of Duque anew, insisting that he was not involved in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) mess.
“Si Duque walang nanakaw kung pera ang pag-usapan. Maybe some other things. He might be some other things but corruption no, pera wala (Duque did not steal if we’re talking about money. Maybe some other things, he might be some other things but corruption, money? None),” Duterte said during his taped address aired on state television Tuesday.
Early this month, the President claimed that the corruption probe on PhilHealth did not produce any finding linking Duque to irregularities in PhilHealth.
Duterte said he could not find a good reason to prosecute “an innocent man.”
The inter-agency task force had earlier recommended the filing of charges against several PhilHealth officials over alleged irregular procurement of information and communications technology equipment and the disbursement of the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM).
Duque, chairman of the PhilHealth board, however, was not included in the initial complaint.
The task force, instead, recommended to the President to strongly admonish and remind the chairman and members of the board of the “grave consequence of their action or inaction to the PhilHealth fund, to the government and its coffers, and to the interests of the ordinary people who rely on PhilHeath assistance.”
Some lawmakers have expressed dismay with the task force’s recommendation and renewed their call for the resignation and prosecution of Duque over the alleged PhilHealth irregularities.
In his remarks Tuesday, the President came to the defense of Duque, insisting that he has no basis to suspend the health chief.
“‘Yung mga health, mga transaction, it begins and ends with Secretary Duque. But mind you, Secretary Duque was not a part of PhilHealth. As a matter of fact, he was not even reporting,” he said.
“That’s why ‘yung Congress noong sabi nila i-suspend si — or oust si Duque, I said, ‘For what?’ Kasi nauna na — nandito na — nauna kami, sa amin galing ‘yan eh. So binasa ko, ano — what ground would I base my decision? Would I just obey the cry of one million as against my assessment na si Duque walang nanakaw kung pera ang pag-usapan?” he said.