Duque on fresh resignation calls: ‘I serve at the pleasure of the President’
MANILA, Philippines – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Tuesday again deflected fresh calls for him to resign, saying that he serves at the pleasure of the President.
The Health chief was heavily criticized for his performance in responding to the coronavirus disease pandemic in the country, which has already infected 22,474 people, while the death toll has climbed to over a thousand cases.
During a media briefing, Duque was asked for his comment on the recent pronouncement of Senator Panfilo Lacson for him to “just go,” followed by a social media post of musician Paolo Benjamin Guico of folk-pop band, Ben&Ben, saying that Duque has “failed us.”
“I serve at the pleasure of the President,” Duque said.
Duque further downplayed the daily fresh 300 cases recorded in the past three days as being the result of the government’s decision to easing into the less stringent general community quarantine.
He noted that as of June 8, there were 331 test results released, of which 114 confirmed cases were recorded in the National Capital Region; Region VII got 156 cases; while 60 cases had been recorded in other areas.
Among the repatriates, only one turned out positive for coronavirus, he said.
“Kung 114, hindi naman siya tumaas. In fact mas mababa pa nga siya. So pababa pa rin (If it’s just 114 cases, it’s not that high. In fact, that’s relatively low. So it’s going down),” he said.
“You cannot make that correlation (GCQ being the reason for the hike in COVID cases),” he added.
Calls for his resignation mounted after it was confirmed that financial assistance to medical frontliners who died or got infected with COVID-19 have yet to receive their compensation as mentioned under the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act.
He was also criticized for reports that personal protective equipment provided to medical frontliners, and in saying that the Philippines was already experiencing the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic — a fact that the DOH later on retracted.
Despite this, Duterte stood by Duque, with an advice for his Health secretary not to dwell on criticisms and issues being hurled against him over his handling of the COVID-19 crisis. Duque has expressed appreciation for Duterte’s vote of confidence. (Jim Mendoza)
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