Palace hints Duque may not yet off the hook over PhilHealth mess as probe continues
Malacanang indicated on Tuesday that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is not yet off the hook over his possible involvement in the alleged fund mess in Philippine Health Insurance Corp. as investigation by the task force led by the Department of Justice is still ongoing.
This was despite President Rodrigo Duterte's repeated statement on Monday night that he could not find a "good reason" to prosecute Duque over the alleged anomalies in PhilHealth which he chairs being the Health secretary.
"The President has full trust with Secretary Duque and he repeated it. However, the investigation by the different government agencies, including the Task Force on PhilHealth, continues and the President respects the results of the investigations," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a televised press briefing.
As of now, Duterte, being a lawyer, has not found any evidence yet against Duque and this was the reason why his trust and confidence with Duque remains, Roque said.
But he said that if investigation of the Task Force PhilHealth would show later on that there is evidence against Duque, the President would not meddle.
He cited what had happened to resigned PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales.
"General Morales was confident because he was close to the President and the President had trust on him. But when the evidence came out, the President did not interfere," Roque said.
"General Morales is our precedence...but, of course, as a lawyer, he is also open-minded to the fact that he created a task force, which has the authority to investigate...and if there is evidence, the President will look into the evidence...by way of precedent with Morales incident, he is not absolving, he is not discouraging the investigations because of what happened to General Morales," Roque explained.
Based on the initial investigation of the Task Force PhilHealth led by the DOJ, Duque was not among those officials of the state health insurer who were recommended to be charged criminally and administratively.
The task force only recommended strong admonition against Duque.
But Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, during the Senate deliberations of the DOJ's budget for next year on Monday, said that further investigation in Philhealth has been ongoing and there could be other "big fish" who might be caught.
The Senate Committee of the Whole, which also probe into the alleged PhilHealth anomalies, recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against Duque and other PhilHealth officials. Celerina Monte/DMS