Duterte still trusts Duque as Palace probes corruption claims

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 30 2019 02:25 PM

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. File

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte still trusts Health Secretary Francisco Duque III pending the results of Malacañang’s investigation on corruption allegations against the latter, the chief executive’s spokesman said Monday.

The Office of the President’s probe comes following claims that the health chief had a hand in the 2016 and 2017 government contracts bagged by the Duque family-owned Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc. (DPI).

"Until such time that there is a definitive finding of any act which is in violation of the law, the Secretary of Health still has the trust and confidence of the President,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters Tuesday.

Panelo said the investigation is part of the government’s standard operating procedure, as he noted that allegations against Cabinet members are always a “serious concern” for President Duterte.

"Any allegation against any member of the Cabinet or against any official of the government of corruption, or of conflict of interest, or any act illegal, is always a serious concern for the Office of the President," he said.

"If the investigation shows that there has been a violation then the President will know what to do."

Asked whether the Palace will summon Duque for the the investigation, Panelo said: "Let's wait for the President."

Duque has yet to respond to ABS-CBN News’ request for comment on the investigation but the health chief earlier said he "had nothing to do with all of these contracts" because he divested from his family’s company in 2006.

"I divested so how can there be conflict of interest? That is pure conjecture and speculation. Basta sa'kin naaayon sa batas na (For me it's under the law that) you have to divest if you know there is a potential conflict of interest," he told ANC's Headstart on Monday.

The health chief also said he was not involved in the affairs of the family firm during his time as a private citizen as he was "too busy" managing his family's university in Dagupan.

"I was too busy in Dagupan. We have a university in Dagupan where I served for almost 2 and a half years, that was what consumed my time. This [DPI] is in Taguig, so walang time (there's no time)," he said.

The health chief's brother, Gonzalo, was also appointed Monday to head the Philippine Coconut Authority.

President Duterte appointed Duque as head of the health department in October 2017 following the Commission on Appointments' rejection of his first health chief Paulyn Ubial.

Duque first served as secretary of health from 2005 to 2010 during the administration of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.