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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte wavers between rejecting or accepting Duque’s resignation

President Rodrigo Duterte cannot seem to make up his mind on what to do with Health Secretary Francisco Duque’s stay in the Cabinet amid calls for the latter’s resignation over deficiencies in the Department of Health’s (DOH) documentation of more than P67 billion of COVID-19 funds.

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Renewed calls for Duque’s resignation came after the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the DOH for its failure to provide proper documents for P67.323 billion worth of funds spent for the government’s response against COVID-19 in 2020.

In its consolidated annual audit report on DOH for 2020, COA said the lack of documentation of the COVID-19 funds led to “missed opportunities” and contributed to the challenges encountered by the department. The commission also said these “casted (sic) doubts” on the regularity of related transactions.”

Other audit observations of COA showed misstatements in P70 billion of asset accounts, P994 million for liabilities, and P70 billion for net assets/equity of DOH.

However, COA clarified in an Aug. 16 statement that its audit report on DOH did not say that the questioned funds were lost to corruption. The commission said the department “may still submit” the proper documents “in compliance with the auditor’s recommendation” and that it is “premature at this state to make conclusions.”

In an Aug. 27 hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, Duque said he would resign “if the time comes” when the DOH resolves the budget deficiencies flagged by COA.

“We want to clear everything. So if the time comes when I will need to resign, I will. It’s no problem with me. What is important is we clear all of these findings of purported deficiencies and we will address them squarely.”

Source: Senate of the Philippines, Blue Ribbon Committee (August 27, 2021), Aug. 27, 2021

In an Aug. 24 statement, DOH maintained that the P67-billion COVID-19 funds were “accounted for,” and that its offices and operating units have been “working double time” to comply with COA’s audit findings within 60 days following the publication of the report.

(See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Can Duterte stop publication of COA reports?)

Criticisms against the health chief’s handling of the public health crisis are nothing new.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 14 senators, including Senate President Vicente Sotto III, filed Senate Resolution No. 362 in April 2020, calling for the “immediate resignation” of the Health secretary over the government’s “poor” and “delayed” response, among others. The resolution is still pending.

Six months later, the Senate Committee of the Whole recommended the filing of criminal charges and repeated the call for Duque’s replacement in its final report on the legislative inquiry into the Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth)’s failure to properly pay insurance claims of hospitals, among other issues.

Despite the sentiment of the senators, Duterte said in a public address in September 2020 that he would not let Duque resign. Addressing the Health secretary, Duterte said: “Secretary Duque, this is not the time for you to resign … I have heard stories about you going to resign. I have full trust in you.”



Commission on Audit, COA clarification on audit findings of DOH COVID-19 funds, Aug. 16, 2021

RTVMalacanang, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s Talk to the People 8/16/2021, Aug. 16, 2021

RTVMalacanang, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s Talk to the People, Aug. 24, 2021

RTVMalacanang, Talk to the People, Aug. 21, 2021 (transcript)

Commission on Audit, COA audit on DOH for 2020 (Executive Summary), Aug. 11, 2021

Commission on Audit, COA audit on DOH for 2020 (Observations and Recommendations), Aug. 11, 2021

Senate of the Philippines, Blue Ribbon Committee (August 27, 2021), Aug. 27, 2021


Senate of the Philippines, Senate Resolution No. 362 (18th Congress), April 2020

Senate of the Philippines, Committee Report No. 107 , Sept. 1, 2020

Presidential Communications Operations Office, President Duterte: It’s not time for Duque to resign, Sept. 8, 2020

Senate of the Philippines, Press Release – Transcript of DZBB Interview with Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, Aug. 29, 2021

ABS-CBN News, DBM-procured overpriced PPEs being sold to local govts, Aug. 26, 2021, Lao surfaces to deny overprice, but Lacson blasts his ‘hubris’, Aug. 21, 2021


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)