Malacañang said Thursday President Rodrigo Duterte still trusts DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, and he could continue serving as the chair of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) amid the Office of the Ombudsman investigation against him.
“The President has time and again expressed his continuing trust and confidence to Sec. Duque, and the President is confident that Sec. Duque can answer all the allegations being looked into by the ombudsman,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said.
Roque added Duterte’s trust and confidence with the Cabinet officials would remain unless he fires them.
It is up to Secretary Duque on how he would answer the allegations on the said anomalies in the Department of Health’s response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“But as far as the President is concerned, he remains. He remains because he has faith and confidence still with Secretary Duque,” he said.
When asked if Duque will be distracted by the Ombudsman’s investigation, Roque said, “That’s a question that should be addressed to Secretary Duque. I cannot read his mind. As I have said, the IATF is the whole of government approach, and Secretary Duque is just one of the officials there.”
Duterte, on numerous occasions, expressed his full support and confidence with Duque despite many senators previously filed a bill seeking the health chief’s resignation.
The President also said the alleged “overpriced” personal protective equipment (PPEs) purchased by the DOH would no longer be investigated.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian meanwhile said Duque should take a leave of absence to pave the way for the Office of the Ombudsman’s investigation.
“I think to make the investigation impartial… the best and most appropriate thing to do is to take a leave of absence at the very least. Obviously, you can influence the information that the ombudsman will request from the agency,” said Gatchalian.
“Right now, if you look at the fight against COVID-19… the DOH is just analyzing the epidemiology data and giving public health advice. But even epidemiology data has a lot of complaints, in many instances, there were reports of more late cases than fresh cases, so even the integrity of cases is in question. My point of the matter is that the bulk of activities are outside DOH,” Gatchalian added.