MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday again vouched for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, as the latter faced allegations of corruption.
Duque chairs the board of state medical insurer PhilHealth, whose officials were accused in a Senate hearing of pocketing P15 billion in state funds. A whistleblower alleged that Duque was the "godfather" of the PhilHealth mafia.
"Si Duque, walang nanakaw kung pera ang pag-usapan. Maybe some other things, there might be some other thing pero corruption, pera? Wala," Duterte said in a taped speech aired Tuesday.
(Duque did not steal, if we're talking about money. Maybe some other things, there might be some other things, but corruption, money? There is none.)
Duterte earlier rejected calls for Duque's resignation.
"For what?" he said. "Secretary Duque was not a part of PhilHealth. As a matter of fact, he was not even reporting."
Duque, also PhilHealth board chair, is among officials the Senate recommended charged for alleged irregularities at the state insurance agency.
Despite Duterte's repeated defense of Duque, Malacañang earlier claimed that the President remained "open-minded."
"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.