Poe asks: 'Shouldn't Sec. Duque be suspended by now?' | Inquirer News
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Poe asks: ‘Shouldn’t Sec. Duque be suspended by now?’

/ 01:47 PM August 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—Shouldn’t Health Secretary Francisco Duque III already be suspended similar to what happened with other officials in the past who were slapped with preventive suspension over the alleged misuse of pandemic funds?

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This was the question posed by Senator Grace Poe during Wednesday’s Senate investigation into the Department of Health’s (DOH) use of its pandemic budget following a recent Commission on Audit (COA) report flagging “deficiencies” in the agency’s handling of COVID-19 multi-billion funds.

“Despite numerous probes in the past, shouldn’t Secretary Duque be suspended by now if we are going to apply the same judgements as what happened to the PhilHealth execs?” Poe asked.

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“It’s very simple, P11.89 billion of unobligated for hazard pay and special risk allowance. Ito po ay di lamang kapabayaan, sabi nga ng isa, ito po ay kriminal [This is not only negligence, this is criminal],” she added.

Before this, Poe recalled that the Ombudsman last year ordered the preventive suspension of eight PhilHealth executives and five DOH officials “for various offenses” related to the use of funds during the pandemic.

“When asked whether this probe would affect the morale of the Health department during the pandemic, the Ombudsman refused to budge and instead raised the question for us, ‘Are we not, as a people, also suffering from low morale?’” the senator noted.

“The fact that we can’t even go out of our homes—are we happy with what is happening? Are the medical frontliners happy with what is happening to them? Somebody must be held accountable,” she added.

Healthcare workers have repeatedly raised concerns over the government’s supposed failure to release financial assistance earmarked for healthcare workers during the pandemic.

The COA earlier said the P11.8 billion allotted to the DOH under the Bayanihan 1 and 2 laws and foreign loans were unobligated as of the end of last year.

The DOH, however, said it had “resolved” some issues and was working on the others raised by COA on the department’s use of funds for the pandemic response.

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RELATED STORY:

COA finds DOH lacking in managing P67.32-B COVID funds

JPV

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TAGS: DoH, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Nation, News, Senator Grace Poe
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