MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte continues to trust the heads of the Department of Health and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) despite allegations of corruption within the state-run insurance firm, his close ally said Monday.
"Nabanggit niya sa akin (Duterte) na malaki ang tiwala niya kay Gen. Morales sa kaniyang integridad kaya lang 'yung mga tao sa baba kailangan tingnan mabuti," Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, the President's former aide, said in an online press conference.
(The President mentioned to me that he has huge trust in Gen. Morales' integrity, but officials and staff below him need to be checked thoroughly.)
"Pero 'pag napatunayang mayroong corruption, I am sure heads will definitely roll," he said.
(But if investigations prove that there is corruption, I am sure heads will definitely roll.)
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and PhilHealth President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ricardo Morales are expected to be the subject of Senate investigations next week after a resigned anti-fraud official alleged that the government-owned corporation is riddled with "massive corrpution."
So far, Duterte has no plan to replace Duque as DOH chief, Go said.
"Si Pangulo nandiyan pa din yung tiwala niya kay Sec. Duque," the senator added.
The appointment of other Cabinet members and former military officials as czars of the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is not indicative of the President's confidence in Duque, he said.
"Mahirap magpalit ng kapitan sa gitna ng gerang ito kaya pinatulungan niya na sa 3 military generals kasi gera po ito," he said.
(It is hard to change captains in the middle of this battle that is why he asked 3 military generals to help because this is war.)
"Hindi po kakayanin ni Sec. Duque... Nakikita niya sa meetings na overloaded na si Sec. Duque," he said.
(Sec. Duque cannot do it alone... The President sees during meetings that Sec. Duque is already overloaded.)
"Kahit sinong secretary of Health hindi kakayanin ito mag-isa," he said.
(No secretary of Health can do this by themselves.)
Several senators earlier called for Duque's resignation over failed efforts to flatten the Philippines' COVID-19 curve despite having one of the longest lockdowns in the world.
Some lawmakers also criticized the Health chief for blaming his subordinates for the agency's lapses in contact tracing and in stockpiling supplies to battle the highly-contagious disease.
Go, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, said that he would recommend the dismissal of several health officials should investigations show that they were liable for the alleged irregularities in government.
"Paano natin matutulungan ang ating kapwa Pilipino na may sakit kung kayo mismo hindi niyo kaya pagalingin ang sarili ninyong problema sa loob ng PhilHealth?" said Go, who later on clarified that he also trusts Morales' integrity.
(How can we help our fellow Filipinos if officials themselves cannot cure the problems inside PhilHealth?)
"Tingin ko nasa baba yung problema. Kahit ilang beses magpalit ang Pangulo ng board members diyan... kung nasa baba ang problema at katiwalian, walang mangyayari," he said.
(I think the problem is in the lower ranks. No matter how many times the President changes its board members... if the problems and irregularities are in the lower levels, nothbing will change.)
Duterte has ordered an investigation into the "corruption" mess in PhilHealth, but Go said that the President has yet to speak to Morales about the issue.