Press Release
October 14, 2021

Drilon welcomes Duque's support to fellow doctors' call for Malacanang not to 'obstruct' Pharmally probe

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 supplies.

"I am of the position that we have been in support of the congressional, in 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 Duque.

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 on this issue between the executive and the Senate," Drilon told Duque.

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