Nalzaro: Why does President Duterte hold on to Duque?

·4 min read

Due to deadline constraint, we were not able to feature here the result of the fight between Philippines boxing icon Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao and Cuban Olympian boxer Yordenis Ugas in the World Boxing Association (WBA) super welterweight title in Las Vegas, Nevada. I submitted this column before the fight commenced. Admittedly, I also lost interest in watching the fight unlike the previous fights of Pacquiao because I viewed the match as “lopsided.” Kung sa mga sugarol pa sa sabong, logro ning awaya.

Ugas was just pulled from nowhere when the original opponent of Pacman, Errol Spence Jr., withdrew from the fight following an eye injury during his practice. Did you hear the name of Ugas before this fight? Give me the name of top-caliber fighter defeated by Ugas? His record: 30 fights, 26 wins, 12 by knockout, 14 by decision and four losses. While Manny has a total of 71 fights, 62 wins, 39 knockouts and seven losses.

I just listened to GMA’s dzBB radio coverage, which was simultaneously aired over dySS Cebu. Why am I calling the fight lopsided? Because Manny has all the advantages against Ugas in every aspect, especially if we talk of experience. In fact, the GMA 7 coverage which own the exclusive rights for Philippine viewing dubbed the fight as: “The legend versus the Olympian.” Well, as they say “the ball is round.” Let us just wait for the result of this match. Who knows? An unknown boxer may end defeating a veteran in the boxing world.

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I cannot fathom and comprehend why President Rodrigo Duterte still holds on to Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III amid numerous calls for him to fire the latter or for the latter to resign. Duque had insinuated that he would step down several times, but Duterte admitted he turned it down. Over the weekend, during his “Tell the People” program, the chief executive reiterated his stand on Duque’s predicament, saying he would not fire him even if this would ultimately drag him down. He said “even if I stand alone, I will stand for Duque even if it will bring me down.”

Duterte was referring to criticisms that his continued defense of Duque would pull down his public approval ratings. He said he is no longer interested in approval ratings anyway since his presidency is about to end. Duterte’s term will expire on June 30 next year. It would be an “injustice” for Duque if he will fire him because it would inevitably result in a “lifetime” perception that Duque is corrupt, the President said.

So what? Is the President more concerned about the image of his cabinet members and not on his own image? In the process of defending Duque, that also paints a negative image on his person because the public may think that he has benefitted from the shenanigans of Duque. Fighting against corruption is one of the centerpieces of his administration and yet here is a perceived corrupt official and he would not lift a finger to fire him or just even order an investigation? He even slammed the Commission on Audit (COA) for coming up with adverse findings on DOH expenditures under Duque’s watch.

Does the President have an “utang na loob” (debt of gratitude) from Duque? Why did he fire some of his close associates who similarly committed the same perceived wrongdoing, like former DILG secretary Ismael Sueno, citing “loss of trust and confidence”? Sueno was one of the close allies of Duterte who convinced the latter to run for President. But this did not deter the chief executive from pursuing his drive for a trustworthy government by addressing issues like corruption.

He also sacked Undersecretary Halmen Valdez over rice importation controversy at the National Food Authority. He also fired Peter Laviña from his post as National Irrigation Administration chief. He also sacked his fraternity brothers of Lex Taliones, an exclusive fraternity of San Beda University College of Law, Michael Robles and Al Argosino from the Bureau of Immigration. He also fired then Bureau of Correction chief Nicanor Faeldon, but later gave him another position.

But in the case of Duque, why it is very hard for the President to fire him? Malalim ba ang kanilang pinagsamahan compared to his fraternity brothers? He even challenged Duque’s critics to present evidences and give him a hundred reasons why he should fire Duque. He said Duque did not apply for the position. He hired him. So “there is no reason that I will fire him,” the President said. Okay, there is no reason to fire him, but at least you should have ordered an investigation to ferret out the truth. Not cuddle him.

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