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Calls mount for Duque to resign

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — A day after Health Secretary Francisco Duque III refused to resign until he clears himself of irregularities found in the health department, calls mounted for the 64-year-old physician to resign before matters get worse eight months ahead of the May 9 elections.

Even President Rodrigo Duterte’s congressional ally, ACT-CIS Rep. Jocelyn Tulfo, demanded that Duque resign before he could be forcibly removed because he was “not the leader the Department of Health (DOH) needs to lead the country out of this pandemic.”

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“Resign now before we here in Congress demand your forced resignation during the budget hearings,” Tulfo said in a statement on Saturday.

“Secretary Duque, we have zero confidence in you. We cannot entrust the DOH budget to a health secretary we have no confidence in,” she said after senators looked into the dealings of Chinese businessman Michael Yang who bagged about P8 billion in government supply contracts.

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Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, also questioned Yang’s links to resigned budget department official Lloyd Christopher Lao and Sen. Christopher Go, the President’s trusted aide.

Go suddenly told Duque that it may be better for him to make the “supreme sacrifice” after questions arose on his links to Yang and Lao.

‘Make supreme sacrifice’

“You have done so much for the Filipinos and we don’t want that, because of issues about you, your output will be compromised, especially now that lives are at stake. My word of advice is make the supreme sacrifice when the right time comes,” Go said.

“The President loves you and he is fighting for you because I know you also love the President. It’s your decision when the time comes but my advice is to make the supreme sacrifice for our people,” Go added.

But Duque said that while he was ready to resign, he also wanted to address the irregularities the Commission on Audit (COA) found in his department’s spending of pandemic funds.

“If the time comes when I will need to resign, I will. There’s no problem with me,” Duque told senators. “What is important is we clear all of these findings of deficiencies and we will address them squarely with all my DOH team.”

Not necessarily corruption

Duque was referring to the COA audit report that infuriated the President, who even accused the constitutional commission of trying to “destroy the government.”

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Mr. Duterte also staunchly defended Duque, insisting that adverse findings of irregularities did not necessarily mean corruption, but the President later said he would accept Duque’s resignation if he voluntarily quit.

But Duque said he still had work to do.

“We cannot assume that we are operating under normal circumstances and each one of us in the DOH has been so dedicated and committed, if not passionate, in leading the way,” Duque said at the Senate.

But Tulfo maintained that the country cannot have a health secretary who is “suffering from mental anguish.”

“We need a DOH chief who is rational, calm, collected, inspiring and solves problems. We cannot have a [health] secretary who lets our front-liners suffer. You create more problems than solutions,” she said.

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TAGS: calls for Duque's resignation, COA, DOH fund deficiencies, Francisco Duque III
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