Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has the trust and confidence of President Duterte but is not automatically absolved of liability over the alleged irregularities in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), Malacañang clarified Tuesday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the President would remain “open-minded” to the ongoing investigation into the alleged PhilHealth anomalies and would respect the results of the probe.

roque 1 1024x683 - Duterte retains trust in Duque, keeps open mind on ongoing probe results — Roque
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr.
(YANCY LIM /PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

The President, in a televised address Monday night, said he has found no good reason to prosecute Duque over the PhilHealth mess, insisting the health chief remains a hardworking public servant.  

“Kapag ikaw kasi ay abogado at hindi mo nakita ang ebidensya, you will go by your overall assessment. And right now ang overall assessment ni Presidente, full trust and confidence kay Secretary Duque (If you are a lawyer and you don’t see evidence, you will go by your overall assessment. And right now, the President’s overall assistance is he has full trust and confidence in Secretary Duque),” Roque said during a Palace press briefing Tuesday.

“Pero siyempre as a lawyer he’s also open minded to the fact na meron siyang binuong task force, meron po talagang kapangyarihang mag-imbestiga ang Senado at kung meron pong ebidensya, titignan ni Presidente ang ebidensya (But of course as a lawyer, he is also openminded to the fact that he has created a task force, the Senate has the power to investigate and if there is evidence, the President will look at the evidence),” he said.

Roque assured that the President was not trying to absolve anyone or discourage the probe despite his trust in Duque.

He mentioned the President’s position towards former PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales whom he trusted pending the results of the probe. Duterte however later endorsed the panel recommendation to file cases against Morales and other top ranking officials, he added.

“By way of precedence, by way of Morales incident, wala po, hindi po niya inaabsolve, hindi niya dini-discourage ang pag-iimbestiga dahil ‘yan nga po ang nangyari kay General Morales (By way of precedence, by way of Morales incidence, he is not absolving anyone or discouraging the investigation because that also happened with General Morales),” he said.

Last month, the President approved the recommendations of the Department of Justice-led task force to file graft, malversation of public funds, tax violations among others against several senior officials in connection with the 
alleged irregular procurement of information and communications technology equipment and disbursement of the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM).

Duque, chairman of the PhilHealth board, was not included in the list of persons recommended for filing of administrative and criminal raps.

Instead, the task force recommended to the President to strongly admonish and remind the chairman and members of the board of the “grave consequence of their action or inaction to the PhilHealth fund, to the government and its coffers, and to the interests of the ordinary people who rely on PhilHealth assistance.”

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