President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday defended Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar from allegations of corruption as he asserted his anti-corruption drive.

Duque was tagged as the “godfather” of the alleged “mafia” that pocketed P15 billion within the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth), where he serves as ex-officio chairman.

Duterte reaffirmed his support for Duque, saying the health chief had not been involved in the state insurer’s operations.

“Secretary Duque was not a part of PhilHealth. As a matter of fact, he was not even reporting. That’s why ‘yung Congress noong sabi nila i-suspend si — or oust si Duque, I said, ‘For what?’” Duterte said in an address aired on Tuesday.

Duterte added that he would not “just obey the cry of one million” as his assessment stood firm: “Si Duque, walang nanakaw kung pera ang pag-usapan. Maybe some other things, pero corruption, pera? Wala.”

The president also vouched for Villar anew, whose agency faces allegations of corruption.

In a previous address, Duterte said the anomalies within the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) were caused by officials on the ground and that Villar had no reason to pocket state funds as he already has plenty of money.

“Let me state here and now that I have nothing against Secretary Villar. He is one of the hardworking at maraming accomplishments si Secretary Villar. But you know accomplishments alone to me should not suffice para na sa akin, hindi na kay Secretary Villar, because it’s not his job to be running after crooks,” he said on Monday.

During the same address, Duterte ordered a task force to probe government-wide irregularities to focus on alleged corruption within DPWH.

Duterte also said government officials facing criminal or administrative charges would not be absolved from liability even after they stepped down from their posts.

Charges were earlier filed by a Department of Justice-led task force against former PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales and other high-ranking officials of the state insurer.

New PhilHealth President Dante Gierran ordered a reorganization of the firm, directing senior officers from Salary Grade 26 and above to tender their courtesy resignations. A total of 43 officials resigned.

Duterte said even those who had resigned amid corruption investigations would not be exempted from liability.

“Let me remind everybody in this government na your resignation will not save your neck. Alam mo bakit? You are not allowed to resign if there is a pending case against you,” the president said on Tuesday. John Ezekiel J. Hirro