Duterte changes tack, says he'll accept if Duque quits 'voluntarily'


Posted at Aug 25 2021 08:54 AM

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President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday departed from his previous stance, saying he would accept Health Secretary Francisco Duque III's resignation if he did it "voluntarily." 

Duque's agency is facing questions on its management of funds, after the Commission on Audit said some P67 billion in various "deficiencies" led to "missed opportunities to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Duterte said he would not fire Duque because "there is no corruption, there is no loss of funds" and "whatever be the environment of the time, you have to observe fairness." 

"Now ngayon, kung si Duque will offer to resign voluntarily, tatanggapin ko," the President said in a taped meeting with health secretary and other officials. 

"Pero kung sabihin mo ako ang magsabi sa kanya 'mag-resign ka,' that will never happen, that will never happen," he added. 

(Now, if Duque will offer to resign voluntarily, I will accept it. But if you tell me to order him, 'resign', that will never happen.) 

This is a departure from the Duterte's Aug. 16 remark, in which he said he would reject any attempt at resignation from Duque. 

On Friday, the President also said he won't fire Duque III "even if it will bring me down." 

The President previously rejected calls for the firing of the Health chief over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the P15-billion corruption allegation against medical state insurer PhilHealth, whose board is chaired by Duque.