Duterte still trusts Duque despite calls for criminal charges vs health chief: Palace

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 02 2020 12:57 PM

Duterte still trusts Duque despite calls for criminal charges vs health chief: Palace 1
President Rodrigo Duterte confers with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III while holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Malacañan Palace on March 9, 2020. Presidential Photo

MANILA-- President Rodrigo Duterte continues to trust Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Malacañang said Wednesday even after senators recommended the filing of criminal charges against the latter over alleged anomalies at the state health insurer.

Senators on Tuesday recommended the filing of graft and malversation charges against Duque, resigned PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales, and other executive officers of the insurance agency over alleged anomalous transactions in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth).

Despite the recommendation, the President will wait for the results of a multi-agency investigation on alleged corruption in the state medical insurer before he decides on the fate of officials linked to anomalies, his spokesperson Harry Roque said.

"Si Presidente naman po ay nagtitiwala pa rin kay Secretary Duque pero antayin po natin ang rekomendasyon ng task force dahil kung meron din ganyang rekomendasyon ang task force ay rerespetuhin din ng Presidente ang rekomendasyon," Roque said in an interview on state television PTV.

(The President still trusts Secretary Duque but let's wait for the recommendation of the task force because if the recommendations are the same, the President will respect it.)

Duque has repeatedly been defended by the President from critics. Earlier this year, the President also rejected calls of senators demanding the resignation of Duque over his supposed failure of leadership over the country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But last month, the President formed a multi-agency task force led by the Department of Justice to investigate anomalies in PhilHealth--of which Duque is chairman of the board--following claims of corruption against officials of the state-run health insurer.

Malacañang said it expects the task force to finish its investigation by Sept. 14 and submit its findings and recommendations to the President within the same month.

"Kaya po ang Presidente, dahil binuo naman niya ang task force, ay susundin niya ang rekomendasyon..." Roque said.

(The President formed the task force because he wants to follow its recommendations.)

The President earlier vowed to use his remaining two years in power to clean up corruption in PhilHealth. 

On Monday, he announced seasoned crime investigator Dante Gierran as the new chief of the state health insurer in the hopes that the official could rid PhilHealth of corruption.