Panelo bares Leachon applied as DoH Secretary

Published January 31, 2021, 3:00 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

A local physician critical of the government’s pandemic response should consider running for public office after failing to become part of the Duterte Cabinet.

Dr. Tony Leachon, former special adviser to the National Task Force against COVID-19. (Photo from Tony Leachon’s Facebook page)

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo made the suggestion to Dr. Anthony Leachon who he claimed previously applied for the post of Secretary of the Department of Health (DoH).

“Doctor Tony, tanggi ka pa nang tanggi na wala kang plano o gusto maging opisyal ng gobyerno. O hindi mo pa maamin. Eh sa akin ka nagpadala ng application gusto mo maging Secretary of Department of Health (Doctor Tony, you keep denying that you don’t have plans or you don’t want to be an official of government. You cannot even admit it. You sent your application to me. You wanted to be the Secretary of Department of Health),” Panelo said during his “Counterpoint” program Saturday.

“Gusto mo pa yata ipakita ko sa screen ‘yung application mo sa akin naka-address o naka-address kay Presidente through me. Gusto mo ‘yun? Ayaw naman kitang ipahiya. Eh wala naman masama na gusto mo ng posisyon.

Karapatdapat ka pero huwag mo… mag-cooperate ka na lang (You want me to show your application on the screen that you addressed the letter to the President through me? Do you want that? But I don’t want to humiliate you.

There is nothing wrong if you want a post. You’re qualified but you should cooperate instead),” he added.

Panelo said Leachon, a former government adviser, ought to try becoming a politician due to his supposed penchant for commenting on issues. He alleged that Leachon was only “creating more doubts” in the government’s efforts to combat the pandemic, including its planned vaccination program.

“I’m calling you out for creating more doubts at sumasakay ka sa issue. Lahat na lang pinapasukan mo. Hindi ko naman maintindihan. Eh mag-politiko ka na lang kaya. Tumakbo ka na lang. Hindi yung kung ano-ano yung pinapalabas mo (You keep riding on issues. You comment on all issues. I don’t understand it. Better become a politician. Run for public office instead of making such pronouncements),”he said.

Last week, Panelo railed against Leachon for supposedly adding fuel to the fire following his criticism about the government’s vaccination plans. He alleged that Leachon has not contributed to easing public concern about the vaccines that can help protect against the coronavirus.

Leachon later took to Twitter to respond to Panelo’s remarks, saying he should “stop blaming other people for your mistakes.” The doctor explained that he merely pinpointed the “cracks” in the vaccination plan, including the alleged delay and lack of transparency in procurement of the vaccines, insisting the public deserves urgent response from the government.

Reacting to Leachon’s comment, Panelo denied that the government has made any lapses in addressing the pandemic. The strict lockdown initially implemented by the government has actually been credited for curbing the spread of the illness, he said.

“Hindi kita sinisisi. wala akong sinisisi. Tinatawagan kita ng pansin na huwag mo na dagdagan ‘yung mga pagdududa (I am not blaming you. I am not blaming anyone. I’m calling your attention not to add any more to the doubts),” he said.

On the supposed lack of transparency in vaccine procurement, Panelo said the prices have been temporarily withheld due to the government’s confidentiality discourse agreement with the supplier. “Hindi naman permanent yun. Pang kasalukuyan lamang. Temporary lamang ‘yun (That’s not permanent. It’s just for the moment. It’s temporary),” he said.

Panelo also hit back at Leachon for supposedly presenting the “facts” about the coronavirus situation in the country.

“Anong facts? (What facts?) You don’t anything about the facts because you are not in the government. Hindi mo alam ang plano (You don’t know the plan),” he said.

“Sasabihin mo na naman ‘We have longest lockdown.’ Eh napupuri nga tayo sa lockdown na ginawa natin at napababa natin ‘yung spread (You’ll say again ‘We have the longest lockdown.’ We’ve actually been praised for the lockdown that help curbed the coronavirus spread),” he said.

Leachon, a health reform advocate, briefly served as adviser of the national task force battling the pandemic. He was removed from the post last June after criticizing the health department for allegedly losing focus in addressing the pandemic.

After being accused of eyeing a government post, Leachon explained that he was raising a red flag on safety and efficacy data of vaccines “so we can procure the right vaccine for our country.”  He also ruled out any future plans in government, saying he only wanted to help the country. 

“I dreamt of serving the government before but I have no future ambitions to be a public official.  I’d like to spend my sunset years with the family, closest friends , and doing advocacy work,” he tweeted last December.

To supposedly enlighten Leachon and other critics, Panelo explained the government’s vaccination program during his program. 

Once the vaccine supplies arrive in the country, Panelo said the storage of vaccines will depend on required temperature conditions. The vaccines will be deployed to city and provincial health offices, hospitals, and other identified vaccination sites.

He said the government plans to inoculate 70 percent of the population to achieve herd immunity. The priority recipients of the free vaccines are medical frontliners, seniors, poor citizens, and uniformed personnel.