Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Barbers on Thursday became the first pro-administration congressman to openly criticize Department of Health (DoH) Secretary Francisco Duque III for his performance amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Barbers called Duque a “big joke” and wished that President Duterte installed somebody else at the helm of the DoH.
“If we are to survive this pandemic, we need a competent guide. Sadly, the Department of Health under the watch of Secretary Duque has lost all credibility with his repeated pronouncements that have no basis and contrary to facts, dismissed by his fellow secretaries and officials and amounted to nothing but a big joke,” he said.
“In due time, President Duterte will surely find a competent replacement, if only to bring us back on track and restore the credibility of our Health department. It is time we put someone who, like Caesar’s wife, must be above suspicion and possesses deep knowledge and understanding of his responsibilities,” the Mindanaoan said, stopping short of making a resignation plea.
Before Barbers, only independent House member Magdalo party-list Rep. Manuel Cabochan III had explicitly slammed Duque and called for the Health chief’s resignation. Cabochan is an administration critic.
Last June, the party-list solon slammed Duque for blaming his own subordinates for the delay in the release of benefits for COVID-stricken health workers.
In another faux pas, Duque said Wednesday that the curve of COVID-19 infections has been “successfully flattened” since April, despite Philippine cases racing toward the 60,000-mark.
“This is why we are in serious trouble,” Barbers said of the Cabinet official’s remarks.
He pointed out that no less than the World Health Organization (WHO) has commented on the lapses in the government’s strategy against the virus.
He said WHO’s remarks did not come as a surprise considering that the head of the Health department has been measured, weighed, and found wanting by no less than the senators who subsequently demanded his resignation.
In April, a resolution signed by at least 14 senators sought Duque’s resignation for his “failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, and inefficiency,” among others.
Recently, the Ombudsman announced an investigation on the alleged overpriced purchase of test kits by the DoH and other issues.