MANILA— Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Wednesday dismissed corruption allegations hurled by Senator Manny Pacquiao at his department and said the lawmaker was just misinformed.
“We are always open. Our books are always open to public audit, on top of the COA audit. Wala namang problema, kung anong hinihingi niya we will give it all,” said Duque in an interview on TeleRadyo.
(There is no problem, whatever he asks, we will give it all.)
Duque said is he prepared to answer the question posed by Pacquiao if he is ready to explain how the Department of Health used the COVID-19 response budget, including funds for the vaccination program, under the Bayanihan to Heal As One and Bayanihan to Recover As One laws, and part of the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
“Ang sagot, handang-handa na po kami magbigay ng aming latest budget utilization report,” said Duque.
(The answer is we're prepared to give him our latest budget utilization report.)
Pacquiao named the DOH as the first on his list as being the top corrupt government office in the country, citing purchases made for personal protective equipment and overpriced test kits at the height of the country’s fight against COVID-19.
in an interview on TeleRadyo on Wednesday morning, Duque said he already tasked Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega to send the latest report to Pacquiao.
Duque also said he was among those who faced the Committee of the Whole hearing at the Senate on June 14 to disclose pandemic expenses, but recalled that Pacquiao never raised any questions during the time that they were there.
“Walong oras kami doon, ni isang tanong walang nanggaling kay Sen. Manny Pacquiao. Walang tanong ni isa, so nakakapagtaka naman na bigla-bigla na lang magsasabi. Although in fairness, wala naman siyang sinabing ninakaw. Wala naman siyang sinasabi na ito’y kinomisyon, sinasabi lang niya handa na ba kayong magpaliwanag,” said Duque.
(We were there for 8 hours but not a single question came from Sen. Manny Pacquiao. Not even a single question, so its so surprising that he suddenly issued that statement. Although in fairness, he never mentioned anything being stolen. He only asked if we're ready to explain.)
Duque said it’s very easy to throw accusations, but stressed that these must be supported by evidence.
“But at the end of the day, where is the evidence? We should be on receipt of evidence. Kung may accusations, should be presented with incontrovertible evidence and other paper trail, for example,” he said.
But the health chief believes that Pacquiao will still be able to give them due process.
“I am sure the good senator will always recognize our right to due process. He cannot be just making wild accusations. Ano ba 'yung specifics nung alegasyon, ano ba 'yung ebidensiya,” he said.
Duque said he is ready and open should Pacquiao decide to call for him.
“Ang kailangang i-knock out dito 'yung COVID-19. Magkaisa tayo. Humanap pa tayo ng pamamaraan para mapaganda ang tugon sa pandemyang COVID-19. Kinakailangang laging nagkakaisa, whole of government, whole of society and whole of system approach. At the end of the day, ang laban sa COVID-19 nakasalalay sa balikat ng bawat Pilipino,” he said.
(We need to knock out COVID-19. Let’s unite. Let’s look for a better response to the pandemic. We need to always unite—the whole of government, whole of society, whole of systems approach. At the end of the day, the fight against COVID rests on the shoulder of every Filipino.)