Lack of system in COVID-19 response is a bigger problem than Duque – Robredo
MANILA, Philippines — With most of the opposition members and even some of the administration allies calling for the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, some have been curious why Vice President Leni Robredo has not chimed in.
Robredo revealed her reason on Tuesday during the GMA News program “Quarantined With Howie Severino.”
“Our problem is so much bigger than Secretary Duque. For me, the problem really is with the national government appearing to have no system in place,” Robredo said, speaking partly in Filipino.
“In fairness to the agencies, the agencies are doing a lot. They have been laboring for more than six months — local governments too. But it seems that no cohesive plan was crafted. It seems like we have no one to lead us. If you look at the agencies’ body of work, they are like working in silos until now,” she added.
Removing Duque, she said, would not change much.
“For me, the system is what fails — not only Secretary Duque. I think that even if they remove Secretary Duque, if the system will stay the same, the problems will persist,” she said.
“It would be good if in the midst of the pandemic there would be a voice who would say that all the agencies’ actions, whether as a team or what: ‘I will command it. All hands on deck. What we would focus on are the COVID-19 related programs’,” she added.
Her statement sounds familiar because she made the same observation in her address last Aug. 24 address — that the government seemed to have no leader in place because some of the actions appeared to contradict each other.
A lot of observers believed it was a criticism pointed at President Rodrigo Duterte, who responded to it by admonishing Robredo, asking her not to add fuel to the fire because it would lead to the destruction of government.
“Ideally, it should be President Duterte who leads,” Robredo said. “ But if he does not want that role or if he is busy with other things, at least he should have appointed one. If it is not him, at least he should assign somebody in his stead — maybe one of the Cabinet secretaries, but with the same authority.”
“You know, somebody whom the departments would obey and say :‘Let’s work together’,” she went on. “It’s like a whole of government approach, —not like we are doing things on our own because it is frustrating to look at this system that does not tell you what is the right direction, where what one says would be countered by the other.”
Duque has been beleaguered by various criticisms over his leadership amid the pandemic, with even Duterte’s supporters in the Senate calling for his resignation.
The ouster calls increased after Duque, who is ex-officio chair of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) in his capacity as Department of Health secretary, was riddled with corruption allegations.
Several officials have expressed disbelief over Duque not being included among PhilHealth officials who will be charged for alleged corrupt practices within the agency — which includes overpriced technology items, the release of COVID-19 funds to health institutions not covering coronavirus cases, and an alleged mafia pocketing billions of funds.
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