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Duterte defends health chief over missing Covid-19 funds

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Philippine health secretary Francisco Duque III. PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER

Duterte defends health chief over missing Covid-19 funds

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte “will not accept it” if health secretary Francisco Duque III offers his resignation over the “deficiencies” in the Department of Health’s (DoH) management of 67.3 billion pesos ($1.3 billion) worth of funds for its Covid-19 response.

“I know that you already want to resign,” Duterte said in Filipino, addressing Duque during his weekly taped briefing that aired late in the night off August 16 and lasted until early August 17.

“But you also know that I will refuse you. In the past, you have attempted to resign twice. I expect you to say something after this. You will resign. I will tell you: ‘No.’ You did nothing wrong. Why should you resign?” Duterte added.

Duterte assured the public that he would not let anyone, including his Cabinet members, steal from government coffers.

“I myself, the president, I myself promise that I will protect you people – and it includes your money,” he said. “Do you think I will allow one of the Cabinet members to steal even 1,000 pesos? You really think I would allow it?”

Duterte pointed out that department heads usually get blamed for the fault of low-level employees.

“‘The papers that are incomplete at the lower level, the problem is it is attributed to the head of the department. He’s not able to look at all the papers every day,” he added.

Duterte seemingly cleared the DoH of corruption linked to the deficiencies flagged by the Commission on Audit (CoA) in the department’s use of funds, specifically by its noncompliance with pertinent laws and regulations, resulting in missed opportunities for the department in its Covid-19 pandemic response.

Instead, he chastised the CoA for publishing its findings, which he said tended to be taken by the public as “gospel truth” and be misinterpreted as corruption.

“Stop that flagging, goddamn it! Do not publish it because it will condemn the agency or person that you are flagging,” he said. “You keep on flagging and yet nobody gets jailed, nobody at all. When you flag, there is already a taint of corruption by perception.”

The CoA earlier issued a clarificatory statement, saying: “The report itself does not mention any findings by the auditors of funds lost to corruption.”

CoA added that the report also had recommendations for the DoH to address the findings – part of the audit process to allow the concerned agency to rectify any shortcomings.

PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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