Duterte vouches for Duque, IATF officials amid Ombudsman probe
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has vouched for the integrity of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other officials in the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) despite an ongoing probe by the Office of the Ombudsman.
“I just want to tell this to the people, with due respect to the Ombudsman, the Honorable [Samuel Martires]. He is still investigating it. But if I were to be asked, if he were to investigate me, I would tell him that I believe in the honesty and integrity of the people,” Duterte, speaking partly in Filipino, said in a press briefing on Monday night.
“These people are clean, and I still believe in them. Anyway, that is the situation, I just want the people to know that this people in the government are sacrificing a lot, I’m just appealing to their sense of patriotism and their love for their country, to help me solve these problems,” he added.
Duque and the Department of Health are facing an investigation in relation to the agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandeic, especially their alleged late procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and the supposed failure to address health workers’ needs.
Recently, the Ombudsman sought documents in relation to the two issues mentioned.
The government’s COVID-19 response has been criticized often for various problems — like the lack of mass testing, delays in the provision of social aid, and failure to ban inbound flights earlier.
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire speculated that the probe might affect the morale of the department’s workers, but Martires said the investigation should continue and that the Office of the Ombudsman should not be turned into a scapegoat for their possible shortcomings.
As of Monday, the Philippines has one of the highest cases in Southeast Asia, having 30,682 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 1,117 deaths and 8,143 recoveries.
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