President Rodrigo Duterte said he will accept it if Health Secretary Francisco Duque III offers to voluntarily resign amid the backlash over the Commission on Audit report on “deficiencies” in the handling of P67 billion COVID-19 response funds.
The chief executive, however, reiterated his position that he will not fire Duque as it will be an “injustice” to the embattled Health chief.
“If he offers to resign voluntarily, I will accept it. But for me to tell him to resign, that will never happen,” the President said in his Talk to the People aired late Tuesday evening.
“Even if it is just the two of us [against] the rest of the Philippines, I will stand by him. I will never abandon a person who is innocent. I may be foolish, but I have boundaries I do not cross in my life,” Duterte added.
The President said he will only sack Duque if there is proof that the Health Secretary committed corruption.
“If I see something wrong – whether that is just P10,000 or P5,000, I will really hit you,” he added.
Duterte also urged COA to consider presenting its audit reports in a manner that would not pillory a Cabinet official or head of agency by making it clear from the onset that there were no findings of corruption or graft.
“When the COA report comes out, the perception is you are flagged because of corruption. Eventually COA said there was no corruption, no money lost, but in the process they have already painted black the white people,” he said.
“Duque was destroyed, DOH was destroyed, and it reflects on me as President that is why I am so interested in this.”
“I am not saying COA did it deliberately. I am not saying COA should not do it – COA should do it because that is their job. But it is the presentation – there should be a preamble in their findings that there was no corruption or loss of funds,” the President added.