Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (File photo)

MANILA – The ongoing investigation launched by Ombudsman Samuel Martires against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III will not be affected by President Rodrigo Duterte’s show of support for the health chief, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

In a virtual presser aired over state-run PTV-4, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque assured that the probe will proceed even after Duterte vouched for the integrity of Duque and his other Cabinet members.

“Tuloy pa rin ang imbestigasyon kaya nga sabi po ni Presidente, with all due respect to Ombudsman Martires, alam po niya na independiente at constitutional office ang Ombudsman at hindi po niya hinahadlangan ang imbestigasyon na ito (The investigation will proceed that’s why the President said with all due respect to Ombudsman Martires, he knows that the Office of the Ombudsman is an independent constitutional body and he won’t meddle),” he said.

Roque said Duterte was simply expressing his continued trust and confidence for the members of his officials.

He also pointed out that he was confident that Martires, a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, will not be swayed despite his relations with Duterte.

“Alam po niya ang batas niya, titingnan lang niya kung mayroong nalabag na batas. Kung hindi man ang Anti-Graft Law then titingnan niya ang Salonga Law on Code of Conduct for Public Officers (He knows his law, he will see if there were any laws violated. If not the Anti-Graft Law, he will look at the Salonga Law on the Code of Conduct for Public Officers),” he said.

Duterte appointed Martires as Supreme Court (SC) justice and as Ombudsman in 2017.

Martires is also Duterte’s fellow alumnus at the San Ben College law school

In a public address late Monday night, Duterte said he was prepared to face the Ombudsman himself and defend his officials.

“With due respect to the Ombudsman, the Honorable Martires, iniimbestiga pa niya pero kung ako, kung ako lang ang tanungin, kung ako ang imbestigahin niya, eh di magpunta talaga ako sabihin ko na I believe in the honesty and integrity of my people (With due respect to the Ombudsman, the honorable Martires, he is investigating it. But If I were to be asked, if he were to investigate me, I will go there and tell him that I believe in the honesty and integrity of my people),” he said.

Duterte believed that none of his officials are involved in anomalies, otherwise, they would have already been fired.

“My people here are clean and I still believe in them. But anyway, that’s the situation,” he said. “I will stake my reputation as President. There are no anomalies taking place.”

Earlier, Roque also said Duterte is “confident” that Duque would be able to defend himself before the Ombudsman.

“Kampante naman po ang Presidente na masasagot po ni Sec. Duque lahat po iyang mga alegasyon sa Ombudsman (the President is confident that Sec. Duque will be able to answer the allegations before the Ombudsman),” he said.

Martires earlier ordered a team to probe the purchase of 100,000 test kits by the Department of Health, the delayed procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) sets and other medical gears, as well as alleged lapses and irregularities that led to the death and infection of health care workers and rise in the number of deaths, among others. (PNA)