Duterte kids Duque about going on vacation with some Americans in Spratlys
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday broached in jest the idea of inviting Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on a vacation accompanied by Americans somewhere in the dispute Spratly Islands.
Duterte cracked the joked during his public address, which was aired on Monday night, after he told his appointed health chief not to leave his post amid fresh calls for him to step down following allegations linking him to alleged corruption within the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).
“One of these days, I’ll call for a vacation. We’ll go on vacation. Choose a place, Secretary — just not outside the Philippines,” the President, speaking partly in Filipino, said, laughing briefly.
“Just here,” he added. “Maybe we’ll visit Spratl,y but we’ll also invite the Americans to come along. We’re going sightseeing, too.”
Then the President briefly touched on the subject of the new ambassador of the United States to the Philippines who would be replacing outgoing Sung Kim.
“There’s a new ambassador. So, I hope everything will be the same as this,” Duterte said.
No reason to resign
Last week, the Senate Committee of the Whole recommended the filing of malversation and graft charges against Duque and several other officials over the allegedly questionable release of PhilHealth funds through its interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM).
The Senate panel also urged Duterte to replace Duque and appoint a new health secretary “who has a stronger will to fight corruption.”
Duque, who also serves as the PhilHealth board’s ex-officio chairman, has earlier dismissed the Senate committee report as “baseless findings.”
He said he was implicated with the IRM fund distribution although he “was not even part of the deliberation and did not sign the said resolution” that authorized it.
But Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who led the investigation, said Duque’s own admission that he had no knowledge of the allegedly anomalous distribution of IRM funds only proved that he had been negligent as PhilHealth board chair.
Despite all of these, the President said he continued to trust Duque.
Duterte said he understood the weight of Duque’s responsibilities.
“If you handle a big organization — I had a chance when I became mayor and then president — you will really become negligent because you can’t catch up sometimes. Sometimes, papers disappear,” the President told Duque.
“What matters is corruption. If you’re not corrupt, you do not have any reason to resign,” Duterte added.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.