PRRD confident Duque can defend himself in Ombudsman probe

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. (File)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte is confident that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III can defend himself in the impending Ombudsman investigation on alleged irregularities in the Department of Health’s (DOH) response to coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), Malacañang said Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duque continues to have Duterte’s full trust and confidence.

“Kampante naman po ang Presidente na masasagot po ni Sec. Duque lahat po iyang mga alegasyon sa Ombudsman (the President is confident that Sec. Duque will be able to answer to the allegations before the Ombudsman),” he said in a virtual presser.

Roque also assured that despite the remarks made by former special adviser to the National Task Force (NTF) against Covid-19 Dr. Anthony “Tony” Leachon against Duque, the latter will still be entitled to presumption of innocence.

Leachon earlier criticized the DOH’s delayed reporting of Covid-19 data, urging the agency to release real-time, granular data on infections to allow officials to quickly respond to possible infections

Asked if Duterte would ask Duque to resign, Roque said Duque will remain in his post until proven guilty.

“Malinaw po ang polisiya ng Presidente ‘no. Habang hindi po pina-fire, may kumpiyansa po ang ating Presidente (The policy of the President is clear. Until one is fired, he still has his trust). As far as the President is concerned, he remains. He remains because he has faith and confidence still with Secretary Duque,” he said.

On Wednesday, Roque said the Palace respects the decision of the Ombudsman to investigate Duque and other officials and employees of the Department of Health (DOH) over alleged irregularities in the agency’s response to Covid-19.

Roque said the Palace will not interfere with the Ombudsman’s duty since it is an independent constitutional body and will “let the process run its course.”

He also urged Duque and the entire DOH bureaucracy to cooperate with the investigation and respect the orders of the Ombudsman.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires ordered an investigation team to probe the purchase of 100,000 test kits by the DOH.

The team will also investigate the delayed procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) sets and other medical gears as well as lapses and irregularities that led to the death of healthcare workers, the rising number of deaths, and infected healthcare workers.

The probe will also include the supposed inaction in the release and processing of benefits and financial assistance for medical front-liners who fell severely ill or died, and the confusing and delayed reporting of Covid-19 cases.

The team was instructed to file necessary criminal and/or administrative cases against any official or employee who refuses to cooperate with the ongoing probe


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