MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 25 August) – President Duterte now knew there’s no way he could defend Health Secretary Francisco Duque III from criticisms over the deficiencies in the handling of the P67-billion pandemic funds. Attacking the Commission on Audit only stoked the fire coming from various quarters. It only made him look like a “kunsintidor” (one who condones bad things) shielding a perceived brat of a Cabinet official.
Apparently smarting from the backlash in public opinion, Duterte changed his tune a bit. The “I will never fire Duque” stance has now changed to “I won’t fire Duque but will accept if he offers to resign.” Was it a hint for the secretary that he’s become such a huge liability that it’s time to pack and leave, if only to unload some political baggage from the administration?
Yet, even while he was doing some damage control, the President tried to divert attention from Duque by ranting at the opposition, former senator Mar Roxas and detained Senator Leila de Lima in particular. Roxas served as Interior secretary and de Lima as Justice secretary under the late President Benigno S. Aquino III.
Roxas, who lost to Duterte in the 2016 presidential election, and De Lima allegedly committed fund anomalies too as Cabinet members.
The President’s problem is he could not show proof of his accusations. There are no outstanding graft cases against De Lima and Roxas. Worse, in the case of Roxas, the current administration has cleared him of any liabilities, allowing him to claim his retirement benefits as a former public official.
The political pot is starting to boil with the filing of certificates of candidacy less than two months away. In fact, the senators are eagerly vying for media time and space over the COA report on the Health department. Duterte’s bumbling ways could not have happened at a worse time.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)