MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night said he would not accept Health Secretary Francisco Duque III's offer to resign over "deficiencies" in his department's handling of the PHP67.32 billion funds for Covid-19 response.
In a prerecorded public address, Duterte recalled how Duque had "attempted" to resign twice, so he was expecting him to do it again.
"Alam ko gusto mo nang mag-resign, pero alam mo rin na tatanggihan kita ngayon (I know you want to resign, but I will refuse you)," he said.
Duterte insisted that Duque should not resign because he did “nothing wrong.”
"I expect you to say something to me after this, mag-resign ka. Sabihin ko sa iyo, hindi. Wala ka namang ginawang masama. Bakit ka mag-resign (that you'll resign. Let me tell you, no. You did nothing wrong. Why will you resign?)" he added.
Duterte said those who believed that Duque was corrupt should file charges before the Supreme Court.
"In the end, if you find that there is --- mga nawala diyan, mga PHP500, eh ‘di magdemanda kayo, punta ng Supreme Court (something missing, some PHP500, then file a case before the Supreme Court). The Supreme Court will be a fair arbiter of things," he said.
He said he would not allow any of his Cabinet members to steal from public funds.
"Ako mismo Presidente, ako mismo nangako na (I'm the President and I promised that) I will protect you, it includes your money. Do you think papayag ako na may isa dito sa Cabinet member magnakaw maski PHP1,000? (Do you think I will allow a Cabinet member to steal even PHP1,000)? You really think that I would allow it?" he added.
Duterte said the deficiencies discovered by the Commission on Audit (COA) could be attributed to incomplete paperwork, stressing that it does not automatically mean that money is being stolen.
"Kapag ang COA nagsabi sa deficiency, 'di mo masabi na ninakaw ang pera (When COA says there's a deficiency, it does not mean the money was stolen), deficiency is really in producing the necessary documents," he said.
Duterte has defended Duque in several speeches amid calls for him to resign over controversies in the government's Covid-19 response and irregularities involving the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).
He had repeatedly said that he still has full trust in Duque.