By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said he supports “in
principle” the call of his fellow medical professionals for the
executive department to not obstruct the Senate probe on the anomalous
purchase of overpriced face masks and pandemic-related medical
“I am of the position that we have been in support of the
congressional, particularly the Blue Ribbon hearings,” Duque told
Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, who asked the health
secretary about the ‘collective expression of indignation and a call
to action’ issued by his fellow doctors.
“Do you support the call of these physicians, members of your
profession? Do you agree with the call of your fellow physicians
supporting the Blue Ribbon investigation?” the minority leader asked
In response to Drilon, Duque said: “Yes. To ferret out the truth, yes,
that’s my position.”
In issuing what they called a ‘collective expression of indignation
and a call to action’, around 300 past and present members of the
Philippine College of Physicians and other medical professionals
called on the President “not to obstruct the testimony of material
witnesses to any investigation.”
Drilon also asked whether Duque agrees with the plea of his colleagues
in the medical profession, including former health secretaries, not to
block the testimonies of Cabinet members.
The health secretary answered in the affirmative: “Yes, we do.”
But Duque qualified that he supports his fellow doctors’ call, they
“still have to attend and focus as well on the demands of the state of
public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Duque also told the committee that prior to the issuance of the
President’s order barring his Cabinet officials from attending the
Blue Ribbon hearing, he and his department had been attending all the
10 hearings of the committee.
“I would like to state for the record that prior to the memorandum
order, we had a 100-percent attendance, the entire DOH was present for
10 straight hearings in both houses of Congress,” Duque said.
Drilon welcomed Duque’s expression of support for an unimpeded Blue
Ribbon investigation into anomalous transactions between Pharmally and
the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management.
“So at least you agree that your fellow professionals in the medical
field were correct in calling upon the executive not to stop and block
the Blue Ribbon investigation?” Drilon said.
He said the Cabinet should continue to attend the Blue Ribbon hearing
subject to reasonable adjustments “as we do not want to be pictured as
paralyzing the COVID-19 efforts.”
The health secretary committed that his department is one with the
Senate “in the pursuit of truth and accountability.”
“I’d like to express my appreciation for saying that a reasonable
adjustment can be done and, at the same time, make sure that we can do
our job,” Duque said.
Duque even suggested that the Senate can look into and adjust the
frequency of appearances of Cabinet officials.
Drilon welcomed Duque’s suggestions.
“If you can suggest that to the Executive Secretary and call our Blue
Ribbon, I think you would be able to contribute to this issue between
the executive and the Senate,” Drilon told Duque. (ai/mtvn)