Senate of the Philippines

Duque tells Senate he’ll raise Duterte memo vs Pharmally probe with Malacañang

Sofia Tomacruz
Duque tells Senate he’ll raise Duterte memo vs Pharmally probe with Malacañang

DOH CHIEF. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III gives an update to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Palace on September 27, 2021.

PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Prodded by Senate Minority leader Franklin Drilon, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III says he supports the call of the medical community opposing President Rodrigo Duterte's efforts to stymie the Senate probe

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told the Senate on Wednesday, October 13, that he would support blue ribbon committee hearings probing the spending of pandemic funds, even after President Rodrigo Duterte’s memorandum to snub the investigation.

In a fit of rage over the Senate hearings, Duterte issued a memo ordering Cabinet officials to snub the chamber’s ongoing investigation into alleged corruption in his administration. 

Duque, prodded by Senate Minority leader Franklin Drilon, said that he agreed “in principle” with the medical community’s recent call to the public to support the ongoing investigation and for government officials to aid in efforts to exact accountability in questionable deals entered into by the budget department. 

“To ferret out the truth, yes, that is my position,” Duque said during the Department of Health’s (DOH) budget hearing on Wednesday. 

Drilon had questioned Duque on the issue after the health secretary was among executive officials that heeded Duterte’s order and ignored the Senate’s hearing last October 5. 

A bristling Duterte recently ordered Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to craft a memo commanding officials of the executive department to skip the probe.

Duterte claimed the Senate was “overstepping” its jurisdiction and complained that Duque, among others, had wasted so much time attending hearings. 

“Do you agree with that?,” Drilon asked Duque, referring to the recent statement of the Philippine College of Physicians that the executive should not block the Senate’s investigation.

Duque said he did, but also sought to defend Duterte’s position.

“Yes we do, but of course, at the same time, we have to attend and focus as well on the demands of our state of public health emergency,” Duque said.

Drilon, however, pushed Duque for a more categorical answer on the matter: “You agree that your fellow professionals in the medical field were correct in calling for the executive not to stop and block the blue ribbon investigation?” 

“Yes, we are all one in the pursuit of truth and accountably,” Duque said. 

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Duque requested if “reasonable adjustments” could be done to allow officials of the executive department to attend while ensuring that officials will also be able to continue with their work in responding to the pandemic. Among the suggestions he raised was limiting the frequency of hearings to once a week. 

Drilon then requested Duque to raise this with Medialdea to allow the Senate’s probe to continue unhindered by the absence of executive officials. 

“Mr. Secretary Duque, if you can suggest that to the Executive Secretary and call on our chair of our Senate blue ribbon committee Senator Gordon and come up with a compromise, I think you would be able to contribute on this issue between the Executive and Secretary,” he said. 

Duque committed to raise the issue with Malacañang. “I will do that,” he said. 

Earlier, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had appealed to Drilon for a compromise on the President’s memo and the Senate’s hearings, saying the issue was a “two-way thing” requiring “adjustments from both sides.”

Marathon hearings have seen lawmakers at the Senate continue to uncover questionable processes that raised suspicions of conflict of interest and the failure of the government to apply due diligence in dealing with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, a small firm owned by a Singaporean wanted in Taiwan

Among the stunning revelations in the hearings was the admission of a Pharmally executive that the company had swindled the government. Krizle Grace Mago has since recanted her testimony and is now under the custody of the President’s allies in the House of Representatives. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.