President Rodrigo Duterte has vouched for the integrity of his Cabinet members including Health Secretary Francisco Duque III after the Ombudsman started a probe into alleged irregularities in the Department of Health’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response.
Ombudsman Samuel Martires ordered an investigation team to probe the purchase of 100,000 test kits by the DOH, the delayed procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) sets and other medical gears, as well as alleged lapses and irregularities that led to the death and infection of health care workers and rise in the number of deaths, among others.
In a public address late Monday night, Duterte said he was prepared to face the Ombudsman himself and defend his officials.
“With due respect to the Ombudsman, the honorable Martires, he is investigating it. But If I were to be asked, if he were to investigate me, I will go there and tell him that I believe in the honesty and integrity of my people,” he said in Filipino.
Duterte believes that none of his officials were involved in anomalies, otherwise, they would have already been fired.
“My people here are clean and I still believe in them. But anyway, that’s the situation,” he said. “I will stake my reputation as President. There are no anomalies taking place.”
Given his tough stance against corruption, Duterte said he has repeatedly reminded his officials not to be involved in suspicious activities.
“When Congress gave me the money, I said don’t try to do anything funny with these funds,” he said.
Later speaking mostly in Bisaya, Duterte denied that there was a lack of preparedness on the part of officials, but increasing demand for medical supplies and equipment.
“It’s not a matter of lack of preparation, but because of the volume of demand. It’s a pandemic. The whole world is facing the same crisis,” he said.
He also assured that the funds used to procure PPE sets and other medical gears were not squandered.
“So now we are scrambling. We were shocked by the rate of the contagion. That is why the equipment arrived a little late but that didn’t mean the Department of Health wasn’t doing anything. The money was not squandered either, I’m sure of that. I am very sure and I place my reputation on Secretary Duque that there was no corruption that happened there,” he said.
According to Duterte, Duque would not steal funds because he was “already rich”.
Duterte, meanwhile, appealed to the public to recognize that public service comes with sacrifice.
“I just want people to know that working for the government involves sacrifice. I’m just appealing to their sense of patriotism and their love for their country,” he said.
Despite calls for Duque’s resignation, Malacañang said that Duque continues to have the President’s trust and confidence.
The Palace respects the decision of the Ombudsman to investigate Duque and other officials and employees of the DOH.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Palace would not interfere with the Ombudsman’s duty and “let the process run its course” since it is an independent constitutional body.
He also urged Duque and the entire DOH to cooperate with the investigation and respect the orders of the Ombudsman. (PNA)