Embattled Health Secretary Francisco Duque III expressed gratitude to President Rodrigo Duterte after the latter declared his continued trust in him despite the continued call for his resignation.
In a tweet on Tuesday, September 8, Duque said he was “overwhelmed” by Duterte’s support.
“I am overwhelmed. Our president’s continued trust and support inspires us to work even harder. I would also like to thank my DOH family and their profound dedication, working tirelessly in spite of the risks from the pandemic,” Duque wrote.
I am overwhelmed. Our president’s continued trust and support inspires us to work even harder. I would also like to thank my DOH family and their profound dedication, working tirelessly in spite of the risks from the pandemic.
— Francisco T. Duque III (@SecDuque) September 8, 2020
Both the lawmakers and the public had been calling for Duque’s resignation in the past months because of his perceived failures in leading the national government’s response to solve the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Last August, he was tagged in the ongoing corruption scandal within the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation after he was accused of being the “godfather” of the alleged mafia in the state-run agency. Duque denied the allegations.
At the last Senate inquiry, the Senate Committee of the Whole recommended to the Department of Justice the filing of criminal charges and administrative cases against PhilHealth officials, including Duque as PhilHealth’s chairman of the board.
‘I have full trust in you’
In his latest televised address that aired on Monday evening, Duterte advised Duque against resigning as top health official, affirming his “full trust” in him.
He stressed that as long as the investigation into PhilHealth’s anomalies is still not over, he still has his confidence.
“By the way, Secretary Duque, this is not the time for you to resign. Hindi pa panahon mag-resign. So…I have heard stories about you going to resign. I have full trust in you,” Duterte said.
He also defended Duque anew on his health department leadership amid the health crisis.
“Pero, you know, if you handle a big organization… I had a chance when I became mayor and then president. Talagang mane-negligent ka kasi hindi mo mahabol minsan eh and sometimes mawala ‘yung papel,” Duterte said.
“So these are the things that sabi ko sa iyo na — the one that really matter to me. What matters is ‘yung corruption. Pero kung hindi ka corrupt, wala ka namang — when you do not have any reason to resign,” he added.
The president also said he knows the work of Duque, citing that he himself also takes time to review papers before signing them.
In the same Cabinet meeting, Duque took the opportunity to express his frustrations over the allegations against him, citing that he loses sleep over the corruption accusations.
“What height of injustice, unfairness? And masakit po ‘yan, sir, ‘yung hindi ka nga pumirma ikaw pa iyong idinadawit — ipinipilit na idawit. Iyon, sir, ang hindi ko matanggap lang sa dibdib ko eh. Hindi ako nakakatulog ho dahil dito, sir,” he said.
The reactions on local social media were again filled with frustration and disappointment following this development.
One Facebook user quipped that Duque only lost sleep at the expense of others.
Duque’s ties with Duterte, Arroyo
Last August 11, Sen. Risa Hontiveros shared an infographic that detailed the roles Duque took on at PhilHealth since 2001. The senator juxtaposed these roles to the issues that surfaced during those period, which encompassed three administrations.
Hontiveros questioned why the health secretary appeared to remain “unscathed” over the years.
Nasaan si Sec Duque?
W/ almost 20 years on the board of PhilHealth, Duque cannot feign ignorance of this systemic corruption. Dapat kasali siya sa investigations.
If we want change, alugin natin. Expose the sacred cows. Expose the conflicts. Expose the backers. pic.twitter.com/z0nF2fvrYK
— risa hontiveros (@risahontiveros) August 11, 2020
Last June 23, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in an interview with CNN Philippines explained that Duterte has a “deep friendship” with Duque’s older brother lawyer Gonzalo “Gonz” Duque. Gonzalo, like the Duterte, is an alumnus of San Beda College of Law.
Roque claimed that the older Duque was the only one who welcomed Duterte in Dagupan City when the latter ran for the presidency.
“And what I understand is Atty. Gonz Duque was the only who welcomed the President in Dagupan City when he ran as president, and of course the friendship of the President with Atty. Gonz Duque go way back from his presidency,” he said.
The presidential spokesman noted that Duque’s basis for trusting the Duque family is that they’re already wealthy, thus having no motive to steal from the government.
“As a matter of integrity, he believes that the Duque family will not steal, he knows their background very well. They have good—well, not only are they affluent but they also have their [garbled] because he knows the brother very well,” he said.
Vera Files reported on August 15 about the Duque family’s close connections with the Macapagal family.
Duque’s father Francisco Duque Jr. was the appointed Secretary of Health under former President Diosdado Macapagal’s administration, who in turn was Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s father.
“Francisco Jr. resigned from Macapagal’s cabinet in 1963 to run for governor of Pangasinan. Diosdado personally campaigned for the elder Francisco, who served one term as governor, from 1964-1967,” the report said.
When Macapagal-Arroyo became president, she returned the favor and appointed the younger Duque as the health secretary from 2005 to 2009.