President Rodrigo Duterte will not ask Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd to take a leave of absence amid investigation into allegations that he was involved in corruption at the Department of Health (DoH), Malacañang said on Wednesday.
In a radio interview, Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duque was presumed innocent of the allegations against him until proven otherwise
“Wala (There’s none)… Kagaya ng sinasabi niya, kung sino ang inaakusahan, hayaan nating magkaroon ng imbestigasyon (Just like what I said, whoever’s being accused, let the investigation takes it own course),” Panelo said when asked if Duterte has plans to ask Duque to take a leave of absence.
“Pero habang wala pang resulta (But while there’s no result yet), the presumption of innocence under the Constitution applies to every person being accused of any wrongdoing,” he added.
Panelo made the statement after Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, said they would summon Duque and his relatives as part of its inquiry into the alleged irregularities in the DoH and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).
The panel, chaired by Gordon, and the Senate Committee on Health headed by Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, are expected to conduct a joint probe to find out whether Duque breached ethics when his family’s pharmaceuticals firm bagged deals with the government while he is Health secretary, as Sen. Panfilo Lacson alleged.
Lacson had said the PhilHealth regional office in Ilocos had a six-year lease in a building in Dagupan City, which is owned by the Educational and Medical Development Corp., a Duque family firm. The lease lasted from June 2012 to December 2018.
He also linked Duque to the reported overpayments of PhilHealth to private hospitals, including one supposedly owned by a godson of the health chief.
Duque was appointed as DoH secretary in October 2017, making him the ex-officio chairman of PhilHealth.
“As a former chairman of the Civil Service Commission, Secretary Duque more than anyone of us should know by heart the code of conduct,” Lacson said in a privilege speech on Monday.
Duque has denied the allegations, saying he has long divested from the family-owned firms.
On Tuesday, Panelo said that Malacañang would also investigate allegations against Duque although he still enjoys the trust and confidence of the President.
“He (Duque) has responded to the questions on the issue of propriety. So if there are complaints against him, an investigation should be undertaken and until such time that there is no definite finding of any act which is in violation of the law, the health secretary still has the trust and confidence of the President,” he said.