Duterte jokingly offers DOH post to biologist Fr. Austriaco after 'educational' presentation on Omicron variant

Published December 7, 2021, 12:00 AM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

President Duterte seemed to have grown fond of molecular biologist Father Nicanor Austriaco as he offered him to take over the Department of Health (DOH) after hearing him talk about the new coronavirus (COVID-19) Omicron variant.

President Rodrigo Duterte and molecular biologist Father Nicanor Austriaco (RTVM Screenshot)

Austriaco, who is currently in the United States of America, was a guest resource person during the President’s pre-recorded public address on Monday evening, December 6.

After the University of Santo Tomas (UST) researcher made his presentation about the Omicron variant, the President thanked him for assuring everyone that the new COVID-19 strain is “not that scary” as people thought.

“Father, salamat (thank you), you gave us hope and that we– it’s not scary after all– not that scary. Hearing from you… It was a very educational thing for the Filipino [people],” Duterte addressed Austriaco.

He even urged Austriaco to stay in the country permanently after learning that the latter has been going back and forth to the Philippines and the USA every six months.

“Kami, mas gusto namin nandito ka na lang (Us here, we want for you to stay here permanently),” Duterte said.

“We will expect a change of schedule, next year maybe. Salamat at maraming salamat sa ‘yo (Thank you very much) Father Austriaco. You have been a great help to us. God bless you. But think about it, stay longer here,” he added.

President Duterte even said he would happily appoint Austriaco as the new DOH secretary to replace Francisco Duque III who was also present during their meeting, making the other attendees laugh.

“I would be happy to appoint you as the Secretary of Health if that is okay with you,” he told Austriaco.

“He (Duque) even desires really to rest after all this ruckus against him. I’ve been forcing him to stay but he would be happy to give way to you, I’m sure,” he added.

Duque chimed in, saying he would be happy to turn the post over to a fellow Thomasian. Austriaco, however, rejected the offer and said that Duque was “doing a fine job.”

According to Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez Jr., Father Austriaco has been helping the government’s pandemic task force in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and has been meeting with them every Monday.