Palace: Let Duque do his job
Malacañang will let Health Secretary Francisco Duque III do his job in handling the new coronavirus pandemic despite renewed calls for his resignation.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the embattled health secretary “serves at the pleasure” of President Duterte, just like other Cabinet officials and presidential appointees.
“All secretaries serve at the pleasure of the President. As long as there is no announcement on the firing of a Cabinet official, the presumption is the President remains to have trust and confidence. And the President recently praised Secretary Duque,” Roque said over dzMM.
In a statement later on Friday, Roque dodged renewed calls for Duque’s resignation following the latter’s statement that the country was already facing a second wave of COVID-19 infections.
“Secretary Duque will answer allegations in the proper forum but, for now, let us allow him to do his job during this global health emergency.”
Roque made the remarks amid fresh calls for Duque to step down from his post, as critics took him to task for making “blunder after blunder.”
On Thursday, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said it was about time for Duque to be replaced, as his recent remarks showed he was not competent enough to lead the Department of Health (DOH).
Earlier, Duque said the country was already facing its second wave of COVID-19 infections, a statement that was refuted by other government officials and later retracted by the DOH.
The Palace later said Duque had a different interpretation of the scientific data, while other medical experts interpreted it to mean that the Philippines was still facing the first wave of cases.
Roque said Duque’s opinion was not necessarily wrong, and that the health secretary just interpreted the data differently.
Duque’s recent blunders and the various corruption issues hounding the DOH in connection with its handling of the new coronavirus threat highlighted the calls for his resignation, some senators said on Friday.
“I don’t think the latest statements of the DOH secretary will make the 14 senators who passed a resolution … asking for his resignation change their mind,” Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara told the Inquirer in a Viber message.
“Sad to say, his statements have hurt the department and the government’s efforts … since his remarks have caused confusion among the public,” he said.
Angara was one of the senators who signed a resolution on April 16 demanding Duque to immediately vacate his post due to failure of leadership, negligence and lack of foresight in leading the government’s program to contain the pandemic.
“DOH has to make sure that we can rely on the data that they provide. We have to ground our policies on the real situation … The DOH has to communicate clearly,” Sen. Risa Hontoveros said.
Hontiveros said the allegations that the DOH had bought overpriced medical equipment “erode the public’s trust in the government’s COVID-19 res-ponse.”
“Altogether, these gaffes do not inspire confidence in the health department’s programs to address the pandemic,” she added.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said that while it was up to Mr. Duterte to decide on Duque’s fate, the President should address the issues involving the health secretary “sooner or later.”
Drilon had flagged the allegedly “overpriced” cost of testing package for COVID-19 of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), which Duque chairs as health secretary.
“He was negligent. He did not exercise the due diligence expected of him as PhilHealth chair. These issues affect the credibility of the DOH to lead this fight,” he said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.