House of Representatives

House panel warns Duque of contempt over ‘continued absence’

Rambo Talabong
House panel warns Duque of contempt over ‘continued absence’

ABSENT. DOH Francisco Duque III in the IATF meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on May 10, 2021.

Malacañang Photo

(1st UPDATE) Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III says his absence was 'due to his responsibility in leading the country's COVID-19 response'

The House good government and public accountability panel warned Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III of being cited in contempt if he continues to skip its probe into the government’s response to the pandemic.

The House panel approved the motion to write a letter to Duque on Monday, May 17, after Duque, for the second time, sent a representative to answer the questions of lawmakers.

The motion was raised by Anakalusugan Representative Mike Defensor, who said Duque must explain his “basis for continued absence.”

“I don’t want to say the committee is being snubbed, but seemingly, this is what is happening,” Defensor said.

The motion was approved with no objections.

Duque was first absent in the House panel’s first hearing on April 22. He sent representatives specializing in drug regulation as the hearing focused on the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of experimental drugs against COVID-19.

Defensor argued, however, that Duque still held the responsibility to explain to lawmakers the broader health policy behind the government’s response.

In response, Duque said in a statement sent to Rappler that his absence was “due to his responsibility in leading the country’s COVID-19 response.”

“The first hearing was scheduled in the midst of an ongoing surge. Today’s hearing on the other hand, coincided with his preparation for the meeting with President Duterte in the afternoon. Moreover, to promote efficiency and optimize the executive time of our lawmakers, we delegate attendance to the appropriate teams and bureaus who are equipped to answer highly technical and process-specific queries,” he explained. –

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.