Senators trivialize Duque’s election as WHO-Western Pacific head

Published October 7, 2020, 7:43 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senators shrugged off Wednesday Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s election as head of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional committee for Western Pacific.

Duque’s international designation was apparently not enough to sway some members of the Senate into changing their perception of his credibility and performance in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Duque’s new role is “completely different” from his management of the Department of Health (DOH) and the graft-ridden Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

“Congratulations to him, but as far as PhilHealth is concerned and the performance of the DOH is concerned, the Committee of the Whole, majority of the members of the Senate are not satisfied,” Sotto told reporters in a virtual interview when asked for his comment.

“I hate to say this, but, in answer to your query, nag-imbestiga ba ‘yong WHO (did the WHO investigate)? Committee of the Whole ang nag-imbestiga, eh (It was the Senate Committee of the Whole which conducted the probe),” said the Senate chief, who led the legislative inquiry on the alleged corruption and irregularities in the PhilHealth.

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara viewed Duque’s election as an opportunity to adopt the best practices of nations in addressing the novel coronavirus outbreak, especially that the Philippines joins the rank of countries with the most number of COVID-19 infections.

The position could be prestigious for the country, he said, but the pandemic is no time for praises.

“Parang ‘di appropriate yong mga ganong klaseng plaudits at this time, ‘di ba (It would be inappropriate to give such plaudits at this time). You should be focused on improving your performance,” said Angara, who is also one of the signatories of the proposed Senate resolution calling for Duque’s resignation over his supposed inefficiency in leading the country’s COVID-19 response.

“Clearly there’s room for improvement in our COVID response on the health side,” he said.

Before this, Angara jested: “Baka pwede doon na lang siya, pwede ba doon na lang siya (Maybe Duque can stay there, can’t he just stay there)?”

Senator Panfilo Lacson, for his part, acknowledged that there could be different opinions on Duque’s election but as far as he concerned, his views about the DOH chief remains unchanged.

“No, it doesn’t change,” he said.