Guevarra: Duterte remarks for Duque 'expression of trust,' not 'exoneration'
This undated photo shows Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
The STAR/Geremy Pintolo, file

Guevarra: Duterte remarks for Duque 'expression of trust,' not 'exoneration'

Kristine Joy Patag ( - October 6, 2020 - 3:55pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s backing Health Secretary Francisco Duque III amid an ongoing investigation into corruption plaguing the Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth) is not exoneration, but an “expression of trust,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

Guevarra on Tuesday said that Duterte, who is a former prosecutor, will not hamper legal processes. “If evidence should turn up against anyone, regardless of position, I believe that the president, who has prosecutorial blood running in his veins, will not impede the legal process from taking its due course,” he added.

In a public address on Monday, Duterte again backed Duque, who sits as chairman of the embattled PhilHealth Corp. The president said he reviewed the DOJ-led task force report on PhilHealth.

“I have reviewed—a cursory reading really—and I have yet to find what they were saying that they will sue Duque because he is accountable,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“I have read the findings and for the life of me I cannot find a good reason to prosecute an innocent man,” Duterte added.

In September, Task Force PhilHealth submitted its fact-finding report to Duterte, who approved the findings to file complaints against several PhilHealth officers. In the said report, the task force only recommended the admonishment of Duque.

Guevarra previously said that deeper investigations, being conducted its composite teams, are ongoing, beyond the Task Force’s 30-day deadline.

He stressed: “The DOJ will simply continue what it has been directed by the president to do; that is, to bring any and all lawbreakers at PhilHealth before the bars of justice.”

The National Bureau of Investigation, a member of TF PhilHealth, on Friday filed criminal complaints against nine people, including former PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales, over the state insurer’s implementation of the Interim Reimbursement Program.

The IRM is a mechanism under the National Health Insurance Program that grants financial aid to healthcare providers affected by calamities.

Senators mulling complaints vs Duque

Lacson also questioned Duterte’s latest statement, seemingly throwing support to Duque.

“While he unequivocally state before that he was giving the DOJ-led task force a free hand in the conduct of their investigation, even announcing to all and sundry that he will adopt whatever findings the TF has and even join [Guevarra] in signing the complaint sheet, he is saying another thing when it involves Duque,” Lacson was quoted in a GMA News Online report as saying.

The senator earlier said Senate President Vicente Sotto III told him there is evidence pointing to Duque, but added it would be better to wait for Task Force PhilHealth’s recommendation on the filing of more criminal raps against PhilHealth officials.

In April, 14 senators, including Lacson and Sotto, called for Duque’s resignation over the government’s COVID-19 response.

Guevarra said Monday that lawmakers may file their own complaint against Duque.

He also stressed that Task Force’s PhilHealth’s work has only just begun. “As we continue to probe more deeply into the fraud centers in the state health insurer and build up cases, more names may be included and more complaints will be filed in the coming days,” the DOJ chief added.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: June 17, 2020 - 4:06pm

At least 14 senators called on Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to resign over his failure of leadership in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Follow this thread for updates.

June 17, 2020 - 4:06pm

The Department of Health says they welcome the move of the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the liability of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other DOH officials over the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"DOH officials will willingly cooperate with the authorities to ensure utmost transparency throughout the duration of the investigation and beyond," it says in a statement. 

April 21, 2020 - 6:45pm

The Philippine Medical Association, Philippine Hospital Association, Private Hospital Association of the Philippines, and the Philippine College of Hospital Administrators support Health Secretary Francisco Duque III amid calls for his resignation. 

"We don't change horses in the middle of the stream and instead we should hold on to one another's hand so tight so that, faced with this viral storm, we cross the stream together," the statement reads.

April 16, 2020 - 4:10pm

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III appeals to the public to work together as a team following a Senate resolution calling for his resignation.

"We will answer these allegations in due time, but right now, we will continue to be in the trenches with our health care workers and frontliners," Duque says in a statement.

The DOH chief says he will continue to serve the country to the best of his ability as the nation battles an "invisible enemy" that "remains unpredictable."

April 16, 2020 - 3:58pm

Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan says he supports Senate Resolution No. 362, calling for Health Secretary Franciso Duque III's resignation for his "failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, and inefficiency in performance."

"Naghugas ng kamay. Mahigit dalawang buwan na ang nakalipas, pero wala pa rin kaming nakitang pagbabago sa makupad at malabong pagpapatupad ng mga anti-COVID effort. Napigilan sana ang pagkalat ng COVID. Nagawan sana ng paraan ang kawalan ng PPEs sa mga ospital. Napigilan ang pagkamatay ng ating mga kababayan at mga magigiting na frontliner," says Pangilinan in a statement. 

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