Hontiveros questions Duterte's support for Duque amid soaring COVID-19 cases

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 23 2021 11:10 PM

MANILA -Senator Risa Hontiveros expressed concern over President Rodrigo Duterte's unwavering support for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, amid the controversies the Department of Health (DOH) is facing.

In her privilege speech on Monday, Hontiveros said the country's soaring COVID-19 cases should be enough proof of Duque's inefficiency.

"Ako din po ay labis na nababahala sa sinabi ng Pangulo noong gabi ding iyon na 'I will stand for Duque, even if it will bring me down.' But as the country logs record-breaking COVID-19 cases gaya ng sinabi ni (Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri) kanina 18,332 today, the highest tally since the pandemic started with 3 laboratories unable to submit data, so totoo understated pa ito na 18,000 plus, and with a 25% positivity rate – it may be accurate to say that Secretary Duque has mostly been ineffectual," she said.

The Philippines on Monday listed 18,332 new COVID-19 patients, its highest number of fresh cases in a single day since the coronavirus was first detected in the country in January last year.

Hontiveros also mentioned the issue of expiring medicines worth P95 million, which she said is another proof of Duque's incompetence.

"Kapansin-pansin din na sa press release ng DOH noong August 16, bukod tanging ang issue ng expiring medicines ang hindi nito tinugunan. Mr. President, ito ang isa pang dahilan kung bakit ako ay naiiskandalo dito sa usapin ng mga expiring drugs," she said.

Hontiveros cited a report from the UN Women which said at-risk groups of women all over the country suffer from lack of access to medicine and non-COVID health services.

"Bakit, tanong nila at tanong ko rin, sa kabila ng kakulangan ng non-COVID medicines and essential health services, may nabubulok na gamot sa mga warehouse? Bakit sa kabila ng DOH Administrative Order 9-B, series of 1998 na sinasabing ang expiration date should not be less than two years from the date of manufacture and not less than one and a half years from the date of delivery, mayroon pa ding biniling ganitong mga gamot?" she said.

Aside from Duterte protecting Duque from critics, Hontiveros also expressed her "serious reservation" about Duterte urging the Commission on Audit (COA) to include government agencies’ response in audit reports.

She said Duterte's statement is tantamount to ordering the COA to manipulate its data.

"If there is anything to configure or reconfigure, it is solely at the discretion of COA at hindi pwedeng makialam ang Presidente. Also, why is the President telling the COA to reconfigure? Why should the COA say there is no corruption here? Why should it preempt any investigation on fraud, graft and corruption, and other such malpractices?" Hontiveros said.

"Sa totoo lang, to a layperson, to 'reconfigure everything' sounds like a directive to doctor the books or doctor the data. COA red flags are there to tell us how to govern better, but they can also tell law enforcers where to look, and which trail to follow," she added.

In a taped national address that aired on Saturday, Duterte, addressing government auditors, said, "Alam ko walang malisya, you are just doing your duty. But in making the report, kindly reconfigure everything."

"And sabihin sa una, at the first instance ‘pag ma-interview ka, sabihin mo na agad, ‘There is no corruption here because there is no money involved,’" he added. 

(I know there is no malice, you are just doing your duty. But in making the report, kindly reconfigure everything. And say at first instance, if you are interviewed, say immediately, ‘There is no corruption here because there is no money involved.’)

COA is an independent body constitutionally mandated to audit public spending. It has been regularly posting its annual audit reports on its website for transparency. 

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