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Duterte defends health department chief, again

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MANILA (The Philippine Star) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte once again came to the defense of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who is facing an investigation for alleged irregularities and anomalies over his department’s handling of the country's coronavirus response.

In an address aired late Monday, Duterte said he has faith in the country’s top health official, who has been in hot water since March when the government belatedly took the threat of Covid-19 pandemic seriously.

“I am very sure and I place my reputation on Secretary Duque that there was no corruption that happened there,” the chief executive said.

This came days after the Office of the Ombudsman announced it will start an investigation into the delayed procurement of personal protective equipment, inaction in the release of financial assistance of “fallen” and infected health workers and delayed reporting of virus-related cases and deaths.

“With due respect to the ombudsman…he is still investigating but if you ask me, if I was the one being questioned, investigated, I will say I believe in the honesty and integrity of my people,” Duterte said.

He added that Duque will not steal from the government because the health chief is already rich.

“He wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t do that because Duque is already rich. He has a hospital, a school, everything including the most beautiful wives, he has them all. They are all beautiful — this is important,” Duterte said.

Carlito Galvez, National Task Force Covid-19 chief implementer, also vouched for Duque, saying he “has nothing to do” with the procurement.

Last month, Duterte defended the health department over the procurement of allegedly overpriced protective gear and medical supplies, saying he was the one who ordered Duque to procure them regardless of the cost.

Duque said that the country ordered protective gear as early as February.

He said the families of the 32 health workers who died from Covid-19 and 19 others who were severely infected have already been compensated.

He added that his office will submit documents to respond to a subpoena sent by the ombudsman.

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