President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to retain Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in his post despite senators’ calls for his resignation due to his alleged inefficient response to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, Malacañang said.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, however, said Duterte appreciated the gesture made by at least 14 senators in asking the President to reassess Duque’s performance.
“The President has made a decision for Health Secretary Duque to stay put. He also expressed his appreciation for the Senators’ gesture in giving him the opportunity to weigh his options on the performance of the SOH [Secretary of Health],” he said in a text message to reporters.
Medialdea said Duterte expects Duque to work even harder to prove his ability as Heath chief.
“Secretary Duque was made aware of the sentiments of the Senators and the President expects him to work even harder to set aside any doubts on his capacity and sincerity to serve the public during these difficult times,” he said.
In an earlier press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque reminded the public that all Cabinet members serve at the pleasure of the President.
“Habang hindi sila tinatanggal (While they haven’t been fired), the President continues to have full trust and confidence in them,” he said.
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go is among the senators who did not sign the resolution seeking for Duque’s resignation of his fellow senators but admitted that the DOH had lapses in responding to the Covid-19 situation.
“Mahirap na magpalit pa tayo ng ‘kapitan’ sa gitna ng digmaan. Tulungan nalang natin siya at magbayanihan tayo para mas mabilis nating malampasan ang pagsubok na ito (It would be difficult to replace a captain in the middle of a war. Let’s just help him so that we can quickly recover from his challenge),” he said.
Go, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, urged the DOH to “shape up”, especially after Duterte provided them with all the available resources to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“This should be an eye-opener for DOH to shape up. Gampanan nila ang tungkulin nila sa panahon na pinaka-kinakailangan ang kanilang mabilis na aksyon (They should fulfill their duty during a time where we really need immediate action),” he said.
He also urged the health department to listen to public sentiment as well as lawmakers to improve their Covid-19 response mechanism.
“DOH needs to work with everyone the same way we need them to step up and work better for our country to overcome this crisis,” he said.
In a statement, Duque said he will continue to serve as Health Secretary along with other health workers and front-liners.
“I serve at the pleasure of the President and for as long as he continues to put his trust and confidence in my capabilities I will lead the DOH and the IATF (Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases) in putting forward a very effective response against Covid-19 in this country,” he said.
He, however, admitted that he was “really hurt” by the resignation call especially at a time when the country needs unity against pandemic fears.
“It is very unfortunate and I’m really hurt that at this time the Senate is calling for my resignation, when in fact we need to come together because we need unite. We have such a formidable enemy, this is a war,” he said.
He said he wished that the Senate had been “more appreciative” of efforts being put in place from the time of the first few cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the country.
A resolution signed by at least 14 senators sought Duque’s resignation over his “failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, and inefficiency” in leading the country’s fight against Covid-19.
The senators who signed the resolution are Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “MIgz” Zubiri, Senators Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, Sherwin Gatchalian, Francis Tolentino, Joel Villanueva, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Imee Marcos, Lito Lapid, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., and Panfilo “Ping” Lacson. (PNA)