Senator Richard Gordon said he believes there are people targeting the position of Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III as he becomes a subject of a “motu proprio investigation” by the Office of the Ombudsman due to alleged issues connected to the government’s COVID-19 response.
During a Dobol B sa News TV interview, Gordon said no country in the world is better than another in addressing the COVID-19 crisis.
Even superpower nations have their own share of obstacles in dealing with the pandemic, he said.
“Ang problema lang natin dito, kapag may mga ganyan [na imbestigasyon], mukhang may mga umaasinta sa puwesto. Lalo na ngayon, maraming pera ang Department of Health (DOH), marami ring pera ang PhilHealth, kaya siguro sinusundut-sundot ng iba ‘yan. ‘Yan lang naman ang haka-haka ko,” Gordon said.
“Merong mga issues definitely. Nobody is perfect. Pero sa tingin ko, kapag ginagawa ‘yan, usually merong umaasinta doon sa position,” Gordon said.
Gordon refused to provide more details about what he knows, but he maintained that replacing Duque in the middle of a health crisis would do more harm than good.
“Sa tingin ko mahirap magpalit ng kabayo kapag tumatawid ka ng ilog, lalo ka pang magsisimula ulit,” he said.
“Magpapalit ka basta-basta e hindi naman basta-basta makaka-agwada agad ‘yan. Unless siga talaga ang ilalagay diyan at talagang berdugo, mahirap ayusin ‘yan,” he said.
Ombudsman Samuel Martires has directed the creation of two more investigating teams to jointly investigate alleged irregularities and anomalies committed by DOH officials and employees, including Duque, in relation to the department’s response to the pandemic.
These issues include the delayed procurement of personal protective equipment and other medical gears for healthcare workers, the alleged irregularities that led to the death of medical workers, the rising number of deaths and infected medical frontliners, the inaction in the release processing of benefits and financial assistance of “fallen” and infected medical frontliners, and the confusing and delayed reporting of COVID-19 related deaths and confirmed cases.
Gordon, who also serves as chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, said they also saw the issues that Duque will be investigated for.
“‘Yung pay ng mga health workers, nasabi naman natin ‘yun at ginawa naman niya agad at nag-apologize nga siya dahil ‘yung tinatawag nating implementing rules and regulations, hindi nagawa,” he said.
“‘Yung delayed reporting of COVID-19 cases, kami rin mismo sa Red Cross, hirap na hirap kami diyan,” he added.
Gordon said he is not defending Duque.
“Ang sinasabi ko lang, if there is actual, patent, clear, inevitable proof na nanggugulo siya, he can be removed by the President. The President is the one that they are attacking, because they are saying the President is not doing anything about Duque,” he said.
“Sabi naman ni President, naniniwala siya, nare-realize niya ‘yung problema, so President ang kailangan nilang kausapin because Duque serves at the pleasure of the President. Ngayon, kung hindi tatanggalin ng Presidente ‘yan, kapag natapos ito at nakakita ng mga ebidensya, diyan natin imbestigahan,” he added.
Duque has expressed readiness to undergo the Ombudsman investigation.
“We welcome and we are open [to] these investigations on the alleged issues. We are ready, the papers and documents are ready,” he said.
Meanwhile, Malacañang asked Duque and the others to “cooperate with the investigation and respect the orders” of the Ombudsman.
Back in April, 14 senators, including those allied with the administration, filed a resolution asking for Duque’s immediate resignation for “failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, and inefficiency in the performance of his mandate.”
Gordon, however, was not one of those who filed the resolution./Stacy Ang