Senator Manny Pacquiao was either “absent” or “preoccupied” when Cabinet secretaries, particularly Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, explained before the Senate the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response efforts, Malacañang said on Friday.
This, after Pacquiao identified the Department of Health (DOH) as the first government agency that should be investigated over the purchase of Covid-19 rapid test kits, personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, and face masks.
In a press briefing in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Pacquiao appeared to be clueless about the government’s transparency when it comes to handling finances earmarked for Covid-19 pandemic response.
“For me, perhaps, Senator Pacquiao was absent when Cabinet secretaries presented. Or if he is not absent, he may have been preoccupied with something else,” Roque said partly in Filipino.
Pacquiao named the DOH as the first state department that might be riddled with corruption after President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday challenged him to name corrupt workers in government.
Duterte’s challenge on Pacquiao came following the senator’s claim that corruption is getting worse under the current administration.
Roque said Duque was able to present the DOH’s expenses and submit reports to the Senate.
“Secretary Duque already faced the Senate. He explained there and no cases were filed after Secretary Duque’s explanation,” he said partly in Filipino.
Roque also questioned Pacquiao’s failure to ask Duque when Senate held inquiries into the government’s Covid-19 response efforts.
“I’m not sure if he attended the Senate hearing and asked questions to Secretary Duque at that time,” he said in Filipino.
On Tuesday, Duque said he was “disheartened” over Pacquiao’s corruption allegations against his department.
Duque, in a statement, said his office submits itself to legislators’ inquiries as “part of the checks and balances” in government.
He added that the DOH “has always been transparent” about fund utilization.