‘Replace Duque for mishandling vaccine procurement,’ Pacquiao urges Duterte

Published December 21, 2020, 4:00 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao on Monday appealed to his partymate President Duterte to fire Health Secretary Francisco Duque III for the latter’s “failure” to immediately secure COVID-19 vaccines for the country.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Moreover, he said Duque was “embarassing” Duterte for supposedly mishandling the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

“Ang mensahe ko siguro, palitan na siya para magkaroon ng comparison sa ibang may kaya din (My message to the President, maybe, is to replace Duque so we can have comparison with others who are also capable),” Pacquiao said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel, December 21.

“Hindi ko naman sinabing hindi niya kaya, pero ‘yong may mga kaya din na leader natin na nag-ambisyon din sa mamuno sa DOH, pagbigyan, para makita natin kung ano performance ng isang tao. Hindi kasi natin masabi na ‘Ito magaling na ito’, kung walang ibang maikukumpara natin (I am not saying he is not capable, but other leaders who wanted to lead the Department of Health should be given a chance, so we can see their performance. Because we cannot say that ‘This person is good’, if we don’t have someone to compare him with),” he added.

“Ang pakiusap ko kay Pangulo, na kung pwede, palitan na lang niya si Sec. Duque para maibsan naman yong hinaing ng mga kababayan natin (My appeal to him is that, if he can, for him to replace Sec. Duque so we can allay the concerns of our countrymen)…Ito ang problema ngayon, itong kapalpakan ni Duque (This is our problem today, Duque’s failures)…Kailangan natin ng (We need the) vaccines as soon as possible.”

Pacquiao, who was recently elected as president in Duterte’s party Partido Demokratiko ng Pilipinas-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), was asked about the Chief Executive’s repeated defense of Duque despite calls for his resignation.

Duque again figured in other issue after Senator Panfilo Lacson, quoting Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Philippine Ambassador to the United States Manuel Romualdez, revealed him as the one who allegedly “dropped the ball” in the government’s acquisition of the early batches of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer.

“Sayang, this January, dapat may vaccine na tayo. But masasabi natin na talagang kapalpakan ‘yan ng ating DOH, si Sec. Duque (What a waste, this January, we should already be having the vaccines But I must say, that it was indeed the failure of our DOH, of Sec. Duque),” Pacquiao lamented.

“I’m sorry to [say] that, prangka kasi ako magsalita, eh (but I am just being frank)…Like I said, napapahiya ang ating Pangulo (he is embarrassing our President). Sa akin lang ah, for delicadeza, voluntary resigning na lang siya sa agency dahil maapektuhan ang ating Pangulo (To me, for delicadeza’s sake, he should just voluntarily resign from the agency because it will affect our President),” he added.

“Kung may kapalpakan ka, masisira ang Pangulo, eh. So kailangan siguro sa akin, na mai-suggest ‘yon na voluntarily resign from your position para naman maganda ‘yong pakiramdam ‘yong ating mga kababayan (If you fail on something, you are also damaging the President. So maybe, I suggest that he voluntarily resign from his position so that our people will feel better about it).”

“Para sa kapakanan ng ating Pangulo, huwag nating sirain ang pangalan ng ating Pangulo (For our President’s sake, we should not destroy the name of our President),” he told Duque.

Duque had earlier denied that he caused the botched procurement of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer this year and said he was just being cautious about it.

He also explained that he was then not authorized to sign the needed confidentiality agreement with Pfizer in behalf of the Philippine government, until the Office of the Executive Secretary passed on responsibility to him.

Authorities said negotiations with Pfizer are still ongoing.

Early this year, senators, including Pacquiao, signed a resolution calling for Duque’s resignation for the several issues regarding his management of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.