MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday defended embattled Health Secretary Francisco Duque III as the latter and other health officials face an investigation for alleged irregularities in the Department of Health (DOH) amid coronavirus pandemic.
In a public briefing streamed late Monday night that was also attended by Duque, Duterte said he will "stake his reputation" that the DOH secretary hasn't stolen anything from the country's coronavirus war chest.
Duque has long been under fire for various issues, including purchasing allegedly overpriced test kits and equipment.
"Ang kwarta, wala pud na. Sigurado ko. I am very sure and I place my reputation sa kang Secretary Duque, nga wala’y kawat nga nahimo na. Dili na niya kaya. Dili na niya kaya kay dato na ni daan si Duque. Naa ni hospital, naa ni eskwelahan, naa ni tanan… Wala na," Duterte said, as Duque listened near him.
(About money, that’s also nothing. I am sure of it. I am very sure and I place my reputation on Secretary Duque, that he hasn’t stolen anything. He cannot do that. He cannot do that because he Duque is already rich. He has a hospital, he has a school, he has everything… So, there’s nothing on that.)
Duterte also said all of his Cabinet officials "are clean" and worthy of his trust despite accusations being thrown at them.
"Malinis itong mga tao ko dito. I still believe in them," he said.
Duque has said his office will submit documents regarding the Ombudsman's investigation, which also includes looking into supposed delays in the procurement of personal protective equipment and other medical gear for health workers; and "alleged lapses and irregularities" that caused deaths among health workers.
The DOH's delays in the processing and release of benefits for medical workers who died or got severely ill due to COVID-19, and the "confusing and delayed reporting" of coronavirus cases and deaths are also being investigated.
Ombudsman Samuel Martires earlier issued a warning against an unnamed health official who allegedly was trying to put the blame on his office for their alleged lapses.
A certain health official had said the health department was unable to perform its duties well because of paperwork required by the Ombudsman in its investigation.
"They shouldn't try to blame us for their lapses, if any. If they say that they weren't able to deliver because the Ombudsman asks for a lot of paperwork. That statement alone is an admission of the incompetence of those people under this official who said that. Because you can order your people to do things," Martires said in Filipino during an interview with ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.