President Rodrigo Duterte came to the defense of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III following a recommendation of the Senate Committee of the Whole to file criminal and civil cases against Duque and other officials allegedly involved in the PhilHealth mess.
"This is not the time for you to resign. I have full trust in you," the President said during his Monday address to the nation.
The President said he is confident that Duque is not corrupt even as he did not give the same blanket defense as to the issue of negligence on the part of the Health chief.
"Let us see doon sa negligence mo. Pero you know, if you handle a big organization, talagang magiging negligent ka kasi hindi mo mahabol minsan eh...What matters is corruption. If you're not corrupt, you don't have any reason to resign," Duterte said.
Duque profusely thanked the President and took a swipe at the senators who recommended the filing of charges against him.
"'Yung mga pumirma hindi ni-recommend for filing of cases. Yung hindi pumirma, sila ang dinawit. Bakit naman ganun? Height of injustice...Masakit yung hindi ka nga pumirma, ikaw pa yung pinipilit na idawit," he said.
Earlier, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said even if Duque had no say on the "improper and illegal implementation of the interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM)," the latter as ex-officio chairman of the PhilHealth Board tolerated the illegal release of funds.
Sotto said this was the reason Duque should be slapped with criminal charges, among them graft and corruption and technical malversation.
“Through abandonment or negligence, you knew billions were released,” Sotto said of Duque, adding that it would be impossible for the Health secretary not to know this was irregular.
By saying he had no hand in implementing the IRM, Duque is practically pleading guilty to malversation by way of negligence under the Revised Penal Code, Sotto said.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the inter-agency task force investigating the PhilHealth mess will be able to submit its recommendation to Duterte next Monday, Sept. 14.
"By September 14, that's on Monday, we should be able to submit to you the report and our recommendations, including the possible filing of administrative and/or criminal cases against persons in PhilHealth," Guevarra said
"But the actual filing (of cases may be) after the submission of the report, because of this need to make sure that any complaint that we are going to file will be backed up by competent evidence," the DOJ chief added.