Duterte believes in Duque, other officials' honesty, integrity amid Ombudsman's probe
President Rodrigo Duterte said he believes in the "honesty and integrity" of his people, including Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who is one among those being investigated by the Office of the Ombudsman over the alleged anomalies in the procurement of health equipment amid coronavirus disease pandemic.
"With due respect to the Ombudsman, the Honorable (Samuel) Martires, he's still investigating, but if I were asked, if he's going to investigate me, I will really go and tell him that I believe in the honesty and integrity of my people," Duterte said in a televised message on Monday night, along with some members of his Cabinet, including Duque.
"My people are clean and I still believe in them," he stressed.
Duterte said that all his people in the government are sacrificing and that he was just "appealing to their sense of patriotism and their love for their country."
Despite Duterte's favorable statement on Duque, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, in a virtual press briefing on Tuesday, said the investigation by the Ombudsman against the Health chief and his other staff continues.
He said the Office of the Ombudsman is an independent body.
Asked if the President's statement could affect the Ombudsman's probe, Roque said, "Ombudsman Martires is a criminal lawyer, a former RTC (Regional Trial Court) Judge, CA (Court of Appeals) Justice, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, he won't be influenced."
He said Martires knows the laws as the latter would find out if the Anti-Graft Law and/or the Code of Conduct of Public Officers were violated.
Duterte has continued to support Duque despite earlier calls by some quarters, including senators, to replace the Health chief for allegedly being inefficient.
Asked in an interview by CNN Philippines why Duterte still continues to trust Duque, Roque said, "What I do know as a matter of personal knowledge is he is very close to the brother of Secretary Duque, Atty. (Gonzalo) Gonz Duque."
The elder Duque was appointed by Duterte as Philippine Coconut Authority administrator in 2019.
He said Duterte and Gonzalo have known each other for a long time as they are both San Beda Law graduates and "we can only say that they have a very close and deep friendship."
Roque also said Duterte believes that Duque would not steal from the government as his family is "very wealthy" as they own a school and engaged in other businesses in Dagupan City.
Martires has created investigating teams to jointly probe the alleged irregularities and anomalies committed by the DOH officials and employees, including Duque, regarding the purchase of 100,000 test kits by the Department and the use of test kits developed by the University of the Philippines.
Also covered by the investigation were the delayed procurement of personal protective equipment and other medical gear for health workers and the release of benefits for health workers who got severely sick and those who died due to coronavirus. Celerina Monte/DMS