RITM director stays, says Duque
MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Monday that the director of the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine will retain her post, admitting that there was an “error” in appointing a top Department of Health (DOH) official to supervise the institute at the forefront of testing patients for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Speaking over dzMM, Duque clarified that the memorandum supposedly replacing Dr. Celia Carlos with Health Assistant Secretary Nestor Santiago as RITM director was a mistake and has been rectified already.
Duque said that Santiago would only have an oversight function over RITM, especially over its testing capacity.
“Nagkamali yan eh. Inamin naman na yan ng aking executive assistant, ang nailagay nila, yung designation, director. Pero hindi, kasi Asec na siya (Santiago) eh… Ang sinabi ko ay magkaroon ng oversight lamang para makatulong kay Dir. Carlos sa pagpapalawig ng testing capacity,” he said.
(There was an error. It has been admitted by my executive assistant, that they put ‘director’ as designation. But he is already an Asec. What I said was that Santiago would have an oversight function so that he could help Dir. Carlos in the RITM’s expanded testing capacity.)
The supposed “erroneous” document, dated March 21, bore the signature of Duque.
Netizens, using the hashtag #checkyourprivilege, questioned Carlos’ supposed removal from her post, speculating that she may have balked at giving priority to very important persons or VIPs and their staff who wanted to be tested ahead of the rest of the public waiting in line to be given testing kits.
As of 10am today, the DOH issued a press statement clarifying Santiago’s appointment.
“I have no doubt over her expertise. Ang kailangan lang niya ay ‘yung management ng expansion ng capacity ng mga test labs natin, so pinasok ko si Asec Santiago (What she needed is help in managing the expansion capacity of our test labs so I assigned Asec. Santiago),” Duque said.
“So malaking tulong sa orchestration ng expansion,” he added.
(Santiago will be a huge help in the orchestration of expansion.)
Santiago’s appointment as officer-in-charge of RITM surfaced after Department Order 2020-1011 recently circulated in social media, with some saying that Carlos’ relief ensued from her refusal to prioritize very important persons or VIPs in testing for COVID-19.
Some government officials are currently taking heat for allegedly insisting that they and their families be prioritized in COVID-19 testing even though they are asymptomatic.
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