President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to “comprehensively” explain the “deficiencies” in the health department’s management of P67.32 billion pandemic funds flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA), the Palace said on Thursday.

The “deficiencies” in the Department of Health’s (DOH) use of Covid-19 funds were made public by the COA on Wednesday, in its 2020 audit report.

“Various deficiencies involving some P67,323,186,570.57 worth of public funds and intended for national efforts of combating the unprecedented scale of the Covid-19 crisis were noted,” the COA said.

The COA urged Duque to probe the irregularities within his department and instruct DOH officials to “act with urgency and efficiency in utilizing Covid-19 funds.

Duterte was already made aware of the COA report, his spokesman Harry Roque said.

“Napakabigat na mga obserbasyon po ito at inaasahan…natin ang komprehensibo at malinaw na kasagutan galing kay Secretary Duque,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.

Roque claimed that Duterte would not play favorites this time.

“Iba po kasi ang lebel ng obserbasyon ng COA, constitutional body po iyan – iyan ang katungkulan niya ‘no; pero ang Presidente po walang sinasanto. There are no sacred cows in this administration, ‘antayin lang natin ang sagot ng DOH at ‘antayin natin ang final observations ng COA,” he said.

Duterte has defended Duque multiple times over several irregularities within the DOH.

Duterte earlier said Duque was an “innocent man” in light of the issue of the P15-billion Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) corruption scandal, despite the Senate Committee of the Whole recommending filing malversation and graft and corruption charges against the health chief.

Duque was linked to the PhilHealth scandal after the state insurer’s former anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Montes Keith tagged him as the “godfather” of the corrupt mafia within the insurer.

After his election as 16th president of the Philippines, Duterte said not even “a whiff” of corruption would be tolerated under his term. John Ezekiel J. Hirro