Roque to Pacquiao: Either ‘absent’ or ‘preoccupied’ during Covid-19 response discussion before Senate

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MANILA – Malacañang said on Friday that Senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao was either “absent” or “preoccupied” when Cabinet secretaries, particularly Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, discussed the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response operations before the Senate.

This comes after Pacquiao named the Department of Health (DOH) as the first government entity to be examined in connection with the procurement of Covid-19 rapid test kits, PPE for healthcare staff, and face masks.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque claimed during a press briefing in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, that Pacquiao looked to be uninformed about the government’s transparency when it comes to handling funds intended for the Covid-19 pandemic response.

“Sa akin po, absent po siguro si Senator Pacquiao noong nag-presenta ‘yung mga Cabinet secretary (For me, perhaps, Senator Pacquiao was absent when Cabinet secretaries presented). Or kung hindi siya (Or if he is not) absent, he may have been preoccupied with something else,” Roque said.

After President Rodrigo Duterte challenged Pacquiao to name corrupt government employees on Monday, Pacquiao identified the Department of Health as the first state department to be mentioned.

Duterte’s challenge to Pacquiao came after the senator said that the present administration is worsening corruption.

Duque was able to disclose the Department of Health’s spending and submit reports to the Senate, according to Roque.

“Nanggaling na si Secretary Duque doon sa Senado. Nag-explain na po siya doon. At wala namang kasong naisampa matapos po ‘yung eskplanasyon ni Secretary Duque (Secretary Duque already faced the Senate. He explained there and no cases were filed after Secretary Duque’s explanation),” he said.

Roque also questioned Pacquiao’s failure to question Duque at Senate hearings on the government’s Covid-19 response efforts.

“Hindi ko nga lang alam kung nandoon nga po siya noong naghi-hearing ang Senado at kung meron siyang mga tanong na ibinato kay Secretary Duque noong mga pagkakataon na ‘yun (I’m not sure if he attended the Senate hearing and asked questions to Secretary Duque at that time),” he said.

Duque said on Tuesday that he was “disheartened” over Pacquiao’s claims of corruption against his department.

Duque stated that his office submits to legislative inquiries as “part of the checks and balances” in government.

He further said that the DOH “has always been transparent” about fund utilization.