‘He did not import COVID-19,’ President says in defense of Duque
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte continues to stand by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III who has been beleaguered by criticisms for his handling of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis.
“Secretary Duque, they want your neck. Then I said: ‘Okay, you want me to fire Duque?’ Let me be satisfied. What was his sin? He did not import COVID,” Duterte said, speaking partly in Filipino, in a speech aired late Sunday night.
“He was there all the time and ang infection was overwhelming not only for the Philippines. I do not want to compare it with any country, but it was a global thing.”
Duterte issued the remarks amid persistent calls for Duque’s resignation for what critics said were repeated blunders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In April, several senators signed a resolution urging Duque to spare the President from further trouble by just stepping down from his post.
A month later, Duque was condemned for announcing that the Philippines was already experiencing its second wave of COVID-19 infections.
And more recently, he drew fierce criticisms for claiming that the country had successfully flattened the pandemic curve even as the confirmed that COVID-19 cases continued to increase every day.
Despite these, Duterte said he continued to trust his Health secretary. He even consoled Duque during a meeting in Malacañang by asking him not to be too touchy about the criticisms.
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