One more time: Duterte defends Duque, Yang at PDP-Laban national convention

President Duterte used the Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan's (PDP-Laban) national convention Wednesday, Sept. 8 to once again defend the honor of Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III and Davao City businessman Michael Yang.

President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during the national convention of PDP-Laban on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 (Screenshot from Facebook live)

Duterte was supposed to formally accept his nomination as the ruling party's vice presidential candidate in the May 2022 national elections during the event.

However, the 76-year-old prioritized in his speech his personal exoneration of Duque and Yang as to their supposed involvement in the alleged irregular use of public funds in connection with the government's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic response.

"It can be said that PDP is in the leadership of government. So it behooves upon me to at least try to explain to you the current issues of the day," Duterte told the attendees of the mixed live and virtual event.

"Because kung ang mga tao pati kayo hindi naniniwala na kami karapat-dapat na sa ngayong nasa itaas governing the country at may duda kayo (if the people and you yourselves don't believe that we should be in the position to govern the country and you have doubts), there is really no point of me joining the party or running for vice president under this party," he said.

He then brought up the topic of the P62 billion worth of unspent COVID-19 funds from the DOH that hand been flagged earlier by the Commission on Audit (COA), followed by the issue on the alleged purchase of overpriced personal protective equipment (PPE) by the government via local firm Pharmally Pharmaceutical.

Both issues have been highlighted by the opposition in past weeks, much to the Chief Executive's chagrin.

Duterte first talked about Duque wherein he restated that COA didn't actually find any anomalies with the P62-billion fund.

"Ngayon itong unspent, sabi naman ng COA, wala namang corruption at wala namang nawala (Now about these unspent funds, COA said there was no corruption and that the money isn't missing), and yet they try to point so many side issues. Pangsisira lang (It's a demolition job)," the PDP-Laban chairman said.

Duterte said it's only right to pour money into the DOH since it's the primary agency fighting against the COVID scourge.

" Gordon and company should not be stupid really to be dwelling on how the department should be run and how the money given to it be spent. May programa si Duque, wag mong pakialaman (Duque has a program, don't interfere)," he stressed.

"Nung natapos yan (issue on unspent funds), dito naman sila sa procurement (Once that issue was done, they switched to the procurement issue)," Duterte said of the opposition.

In his speech, Duterte reiterated Yang’s background of being a Davao-based businessman who has helped him have better ties with China.

Yang, Duterte's economic adviser, is being linked to Pharmally. That the upstart, low-capital company was awarded by government with pandemic response contracts worth nearly P8.68 billion in 2020 has raised a lot of eyebrows. The contracts include the procurement of the questioned PPEs.

"Wala naman si Michael Yang (he has nothing), he has no manufacturing factory in Davao. Ganun yan. Walang record yan, hindi kriminal yan. Yan ang gusto kong malaman ninyo na at least ako, kaharap ninyo (That's him. He has no record, he's no criminal. That what I want you to know, at least from me in person). You must believe in me," he said.

"How can I in good conscience administer your oaths tapos ako may ginawang kalokohan (and then I myself am invovled in shenanigans). Yan ang guarantee ko sa inyo (That's my guarantee to you)," Duterte further said.