Duterte says he can't find reason to prosecute Duque over PhilHealth mess
This undated photo shows Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
The STAR/Geremy Pintolo, file

Duterte says he can't find reason to prosecute Duque over PhilHealth mess

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - October 6, 2020 - 7:22pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte does not see any good reason to file charges against Health Secretary Franciso Duque III over the alleged corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

Duterte said he has to follow the rule of law and that he could not prosecute Duque just for the sake of seeing someone prosecuted.

"I have read...and even some advise me... Duque, you Sir, should be dismissed because you are not good for my administration. For some people, that's possible. You go for the safe side. And there are a lot of people who do it, they want to get rid of the problem. They would just say, 'Go ahead, dismiss him, tell it to him.' I'm not like that," Duterte said during a televised public address last Monday.

"I have read the findings and for the life of me, I cannot really find a good reason to prosecute an innocent man. Mine is to not really prosecute just for the sake of (seeing) somebody being prosecuted. My job is to see to it that the rule of law - the rules for or against a person - are followed," he added.

Duterte also praised Duque during the meeting, calling him a "hard-working government worker."

The president made the remark hours after Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told senators that the multi-agency task force probing PhilHealth may identify more "big fish" as it continues with its investigation. Guevarra is the head of the task force, which is composed of the Civil Service Commission, Office of the Executive Secretary, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission and Palace Undersecretary Melchor Quitain.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, however, claimed that Duterte is not trying to influence the outcome of the investigation.

"The president still has full trust in Secretary Duque and he has repeatedly said that. Nevertheless, the investigation of different government agencies will continue...and the president respects the results of the investigation," Roque said at a press briefing Monday.

"The president is a lawyer and he has repeatedly said he does not see any evidence against Secretary Duque and that explains why he still has trust and confidence on Secretary Duque," he added.

Roque said the president would not meddle in the investigation if the task force finds evidence linking the health chief to anomalies. He cited the case of former PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales, one of the officials who are facing criminal and administrative charges over the alleged irregularities in the state-run insurer.

"Our precedence is (retired) general Morales. The president trusted Morales, he did not see evidence against him. If you are a lawyer and you don't see the evidence, you (would) go by your overall assessment and right now, the overall assessment of the presidente (is) he has full trust and confidence still (on) Secretary Duque," Roque said.

"But as a lawyer, of course he is also open-minded to the fact that he created a task force, The Senate has the power to investigate and if there is evidence, the president will look at the evidence," he added.

Roque noted that Morales was nor absolved by the multi-agency task force and Duterte did not discourage the filing of charges against the former PhilHealth chief.

"Let's just say the president has not seen any evidence (against Duque) and we let the investigating agencies do their job," the Palace spokesman said.  

"If there is evidence, he would let the process move," he added.

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