Cayetano defends Duque ‘snub’ of House hearing on new coronavirus
MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday defended Health Secretary Francisco Duque III following his absence in the hearing called by his colleagues at the House of Representatives to probe the new coronavirus outbreak, and other health issues.
In an interview in Tarlac, Cayetano said that as a former Cabinet member himself, he understood Duque’s absence in a House hearing, especially since he just attended another hearing on nCoV before the Senate on Tuesday.
“I very much get why upset yung mga kongresista kasi iba na siya mismo nandun pero kuha ko rin naman na kailangan siya mismo yung tumingin doon kasi nga sa Senado the day before nandun na siya, frustrated na nga siya sa mga nauutusan niya e,” Cayetano told reporters.
(I very much get why my fellow congressmen were upset because it is different if Duque was present, but I also get why he needed to personally inspect because during the Senate hearing the day before, he was frustrated with his subordinates.)
Cayetano was referring to the sentiments of Muntinlupa Rep. Rufino Biazon, who chided Duque for his nonappearance in the hearing of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development on Wednesday.
Biazon also advised the health secretary to set his priorities straight.
However, Duque was then in Nueva Ecija to inspect a proposed containment facility for those infected by nCoV, as a part of the country’s measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
Cayetano said that Duque’s presence is required so h could personally assess the feasibility of the quarantine site.
Duque likewise drew flak from senators in their hearing Tuesday, pointing out that the health department had only managed to track down 17 percent of the passengers of the three flights taken by two Chinese nationals who tested positive for the virus.
Duque put the blame on his subordinates, who he castigated for failing to inform him that airline companies have invoked confidentiality in refusing to give more details on the passengers.
Hard to manage
The House hearing was conducted a day after the Senate hearing.
As a former Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Cayetano said that he, too, struggled to manage a national issue, even as he was being required to attend House and Senate hearings.
“Kung araw-araw kasi (ang hearings), the day before nasa Senado, today naman nasa Kongreso, paano gagawin ng secretary yung trabaho niya?” he said.
(If there are hearings every day, because the day before he was in the Senate and today in Congress, how can the secretary do his job?)
“So as a congressman, I understand (my colleagues). But as a former secretary myself, ang hirap talaga na tinututukan mo yung problema tapos panay hearings (it is hard to focus on a problem while hearings also happen),” he added.
Cayetano said that the government must instead work together to contain the virus.
The Department of Health on Wednesday confirmed the third case of nCoV in the country—a 60-year-old woman from Wuhan who arrived in Cebu via Hong Kong on Jan. 20.
The first case of nCoV death outside China was also reported in the Philippines when a 44-year old Chinese man who was admitted to San Lazaro Hospital in Sta. Cruz, Manila for pneumonia after experiencing fever, cough, and sore throat passed away last February 1.
The Philippine government has imposed several measures in response to the virus, including the imposition of a temporary travel ban on visitors coming from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau.
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