Lacson rejects ‘rich men won’t steal’ defense for Duque

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    SEN. Panfilo Lacson yesterday said he does not agree with the presumption that rich people would not engage in illegal acts just to further enrich themselves.

    Lacson was referring to the statement made by President Duterte last week, clearing Secretary Francisco Duque III of any possible involvement in corruption at the Department of Health after the Ombudsman initiated an investigation on alleged irregularities in the DOH’s COVID-19 response, particularly on the procurement of medical supplies.

    Duterte last week said Duque would would not steal funds because he is “already rich.”

    Lacson, at the daily “Laging Handa” press briefing, Lacson said he does not question the President’s prerogative of keeping Duque as his health secretary. The issue that he and 13 other senators are raising, Lacson said, is Duque’s incompetence. Lacson and the 13 other senators are calling for Duque’s resignation.

    “Parang mali yata ang presumption o theory na kapag mayaman na ang tao, hindi na magnanakaw… pag sobra ang ng bilyones, wala na siyang gagawin to further enrich himself (The presumption or theory that a rich person will not steal seems wrong… that if one has billions, one would not do anything to further enrich himself),” he said.

    The Ombudsman has created teams to conduct investigations on the alleged irregularities and anomalies in the purchase of medical supplies and services by the DOH during this pandemic. The probe involves the procurement of 100,000 test kits, delayed purchase of personal protective equipment and other gears, and inaction on the release of financial benefits for health workers who either died or fell ill due to COVID-19, among others.

    The alleged incompetence at the DOH apparently led to the fast rise in COVID-19 infections in the country, which the World Health Organization said is the fastest in virus cases in the Western Pacific region, more than three time that of Singapore which is now battling a second wave of infections.

    Lacson, in a statement Sunday night, said the DOH has been mishandling the pandemic since Day 1.

    “The DOH being the government’s lead agency has been misleading us to believe that everything has been under control from the start. But then, the WHO has likewise lost much credibility in its overall handling of the coronavirus particularly in its flip-flopping medical bulletins and advisories,” Lacson said.

    Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Sunday said the government’s Task Force COVID-19 should look into health measures and programs of the DOH as “something is very wrong.”