Lacson: Duterte could be making 'wrong presumption' about Duque

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 29) — President Rodrigo Duterte might be making a "wrong presumption" that a government official like Health Secretary Francisco Duque cannot be corrupt because he is already rich, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Monday.

"Parang mali naman ang presumption na kapag mayaman ang tao, hindi na magnanakaw...Parang hindi tama ang teorya." said Lacson. "Hindi yata ako sang-ayon doon na ‘pag ang isang tao sobrang dami ng bilyones, wala na siyang gagawin to further enrich himself.

[It seems like a wrong presumption that if a person is rich, he wouldn’t steal anymore. It seems like a wrong theory...I do not entirely agree that if a person already has billions, he will not do anything anymore to further enrich himself.]

Lacson was referring to the President's remark during his briefing last week that he is willing to place his reputation on the line in defending Duque despite the ongoing Ombudsman probe on the agency's COVID-19 response.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque echoed Duterte’s opinion during his interview with CNN Philippines' The Source last week, saying that the President knows the background of Duque's family.

“As a matter of integrity, he believes the Duque family will not steal. He knows their background very well,” Roque said, adding that Duque would have already been fired if he no longer had Duterte’s trust and confidence.

But Lacson clarified that nobody intends to question Duterte's authority on the matter.

"Unang-una, prerogative ng Pangulo na mag-hire and fire. Wala naman pwedeng mag-question ng authority niya," he said.

[Translation: It is the President's prerogative to hire and fire. Nobody can question his authority.]

Lacson was among the senators who signed a resolution calling for Duque's immediate resignation as early as April due to his "failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, and inefficiency" in leading the Department of Health during the COVID-19 crisis.

As far back as 2019, Lacson has been questioning the supposed ties of Duque's businesses to the government, placing the secretary in a conflict of interest situation. He previously bared that Duque's family had been securing deals from the national government from 2016 to 2017 through their own pharmaceutical company even after it was shut down for multiple violations and product recalls.

He also brought up the plunder raps filed against Duque for a commercial building owned by their clan, which was rented by the state-owned Philippine Health Insurance Corporation as a regional office.

The Office of the Ombudsman has conducted its investigation on the Department of Health to track down funds in the government’s COVID-19 response, following supposed irregularities in the agency's purchase of test kits, medical equipment, and inaction in processing benefits for infected health workers.