Palace: 'Open-minded' Duterte is not absolving Health chief Duque

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 06 2020 03:38 PM | Updated as of Oct 07 2020 01:24 AM

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MANILA— President Rodrigo Duterte remains "open-minded" on the ongoing investigation against Health Secretary Health Francisco Duque III and has not absolved him despite repeatedly vouching for the Cabinet official, Malacañang said Tuesday. 

Whistleblowers had tagged Duque as the "godfather" of the alleged mafia embedded in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth), which supposedly pocketed P15 billion in public funds. 

"As a lawyer, he (Duterte) is also open-minded to the fact na mayroon siyang binuong task force, mayroon po talagang kapangyarihang mag-imbestiga ang Senado at kung mayroon pong ebidensya, titingnan ni Presidente ang ebidensya," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. 

(As a lawyer, he is also open-minded to the fact that he had formed a task force, the Senate has the power to investigate and if there is evidence, he will look at it.)

"By way of precedent with the Morales incident, hindi niya ina-absolve, hindi niya dini-discourage ang mga pag-iimbestiga," he told reporters. 

(He is not absolving Duque, he is not discouraging investigators.)

Duterte had expressed confidence in former PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales but later asked him to resign due to corruption allegations bared in a Senate investigation. 

On Monday night, Duterte again vouched for Duque over the PhilHealth scandal, saying: "For the life of me, I can't really find a good reason to prosecute an innocent man." 

"Buo ang tiwala ni Presdente kay Secretary Duque, paulit-ulit niya iyang sinasabi. Gayunman, tuloy pa rin ang imbestigasyon ng iba’t ibang ahensya ng gobyerno… Nirerespeto naman po ni Presidente ang mga nagiging resulta ng imbestigasyon," said Roque. 

(The President fully trusts Secretary Duque, he has repeatedly said so. However, the investigation by various agencies continues. The President respects whatever the result of the investigation will be.)

Duque, also PhilHealth board chair, is among officials the Senate recommended charged for alleged irregularities at the state insurance agency.