By Ellson Quismorio
Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III admitted Thursday to being “hurt” by the Senate’s demand for his resignation over his supposed failure of leadership in the persisting COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the Senate’s snub, Duque expressed a determination to stay put for as long as President Duterte wants him to.
“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 you know, we need to unite. We have such a formidable enemy, this is a war, this is World War III, and this is against an invisible enemy,” he said in the virtual technical working group (TWG) hearing of the House of Representatives’ Defeat COVID-19 Committee.
“The Senate’s call for my resignation is a fair opinion, we respect the fair opinion, but this I have to say — 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 in putting forward a very effective response against COVID-19 in this country,” Duque added.
He said the senators could have been “more appreciative” of the Health department’s efforts from time the new coronavirus was first detected locally.
“How I wish the Senate had been more magnanimous and more appreciative of the efforts we’re trying to put in place from the time [when] COVID-19 began in this country,” said the secretary, who looked somber in the Zoom-aided hearing.
Duque said the Philippine government was able to delay the entry of the pandemic by a month, thanks to the imposition of an absolute travel ban on nationals from China and its special administrative regions (SAR).
“No less than the WHO (World Health Organization) itself had cited the Philippines for being one of the countries that did not report any case of COVID-19 for more than three weeks and in fact to be exact, four weeks,” he said, referring to a stretch of time from February to March.
The resignation call from some 15 out of the country’s 24 senators coincided with news reports saying the Philippines has been ranked the least safe among 20 nations in the Asia Pacific as far as the current pandemic is concerned.
The ranking was done by Hong Kong-based Deep Knowledge Ventures, which reportedly used the following parameters: lowest likelihood of infection, lowest chance of mortality, and highest likelihood of recovery based on efficiency of quarantine and government management, monitoring and detection, and emergency treatment readiness.
“I have to look into the report, I have to validate the parameters of the criteria that they used. For all we know, they may have used old data,” Duque said in reaction to the report.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano took up the cudgels for the DOH chief, saying he does not endorse the demand of most of the senators. “My personal opinion is I’m not joining the call of the senators for the Secretary’s resignation.”
“I have not consulted, or there’s no consensus with members of House, because this is a recent development. But I’d like to say that precisely we need a new mindset during these times,” he said.
“Tingin ko ‘yung mga issues ang kailangang linawin; madali talaga ngayon na resign ito, ito may kasalanan.” (I think there’s a need to clarify the issues; right now it’s really easy to say this one should resign, it’s this one’s fault.)
Cayetano noted that at the very least, Duque has been quite responsive to him.
“I don’t know right now, I’m not in a position to judge the performance of the secretary because we are still in the middle of asking questions. But I can tell you, he has been answering my phone calls and he has been answering the questions that I have.