Duque agrees officials should not be barred from attending Pharmally hearings

Duque agrees officials should not be barred from attending Pharmally hearings
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III raises his right hand as the House panel's secretariat places him under oath.
House of Representatives

MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Duque III on Wednesday said he agreed with the health sector's call for President Rodrigo Duterte to allow officials to attend Senate hearings on reported deficiencies in pandemic spending. 

Duterte last week formally banned members of his Cabinet from attending Senate blue ribbon panel hearings that have largely focused on the government's anomalous contracts with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. He did this after his appointees and others close to him drew heightened criticism over their involvement with the deals.

In response, 45 groups representing health professionals signed a statement that said the "people deserve to know the truth," condemning "attempts to withhold testimonies and cover up what really happened." The petition was later signed by four former health secretaries. 

Duque said multiple times that he agreed and supported the petition in response to persistent questioning from Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon at a hearing on his department's proposed budget for 2022.

"We are all one in the pursuit of truth and accountability," the health secretary also said. 

Duque told: Broker compromise between Executive and the Senate 

However, Duque noted that officials "have to attend and focus as well on the demands of our state of public emergency." 

Due to this, he suggested that the frequency of the hearings be limited to once a week. 

In response, Drilon said he could make these suggestions to both Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea — who issued the memorandum barring officials from attending the hearings — and Senate blue ribbon chairman Richard Gordon.

"[Y]ou would be able to contribute [to resolving] this issue between the Executive and the Senate," he told Duque who later agreed to discuss the matter with Medialdea. 

"We can debate on that but I just want to emphasize that we support the call that we should continue to hearing this particular issue [that is] of course subject to reasonable setup as to the number of officials attending," Drilon said. 

"[W]e note that it is upon your initiative that almost all directors of the department of health [have attended]. We do not require that but maybe as a resource person, you asked them to be present," he added.

"That's your prerogative but we do not want to be pictured as paralyzing the [pandemic] effort of this government." — Bella Perez-Rubio 

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