MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has “professional competence” to evaluate the report of the Senate regarding controversies surrounding the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), Malacañang said Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this statement after Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he believes Duterte will change his mind on Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and eventually relieve him from his post once he reads the Senate committee of the whole’s report.

Roque said Palace respects Sotto’s opinion but noted that Duterte has not yet read the Senate committee of the whole’s report recommending the filing of criminal charges against Duque, who also serves as chairman of the PhilHealth board.

“Si Presidente po, hindi pa rin nakikita ang Senate report, so bigyan naman po natin ng pagkakataon ‘no na mabasa iyong Senate report at tingnan natin kung mayroon naman po talagang basehan (The President hasn’t seen the Senate report, so let’s give him the opportunity to read the Senate report to see if there is really basis),” he said in a virtual presser.

According to Roque, Duterte, who is both lawyer and former fiscal, knows the rules of evidence.

“Siya na po ang makakapagdesisyon kung kapani-paniwala o hindi ang konklusyon ng Senado. All I can say is rest assured na mayroon pong professional competence ang ating Presidente to evaluate the evidence for himself (He will decide on whether the conclusion of the Senate is believable or not. All I can say is rest assured the President has professional competence to evaluate the evidence for himself),” he added.

Meanwhile, Roque said investigation of the Task Force PhilHealth is still ongoing.

“Wala pa pong report na naisa-submit. Hintayin po natin iyan (They haven’t submitted a report yet. Let’s wait for it), I think they have until 14th of September to conclude with their investigation,” he said.

In a TV interview on Sunday, Sotto expressed confidence that Duterte will change his mind about Duque once he reads the Senate committee report.

Sotto said Duque should not be claiming he is not responsible for the actions of officers of PhilHealth since he is responsible for the activities of all the agencies that are under his jurisdiction.

The Senate committee report recommended the filing of malversation raps against Duque and other top-ranking officials of the PhilHealth over the alleged misuse of the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) funds and the overpriced information technology (IT) system project of the state insurer.

Duque earlier rejected the Senate committee’s findings saying the accusations against him were” baseless.” (PNA)