MANILA – Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday said he would continue to put forward a “very effective response” against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic despite the senators’ call for his resignation due to his alleged “failure of leadership” in handling the crisis.

During a virtual meeting of the House of Representatives’ Defeat COVID-19 Committee, Duque said that while he respects the position of the senators urging him to step down, he said he serves at the pleasure of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“I serve at the pleasure of the President and for as long as he continues to put his trust and confidence in my capabilities I will lead the DOH and the IATF (Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases) in putting forward a very effective response against Covid-19 in this country,” he said.

Duque, however, admitted that he was “really hurt” by the resignation call especially at a time when the country needs unity against pandemic fears.

“It is very unfortunate and I’m really hurt that at this time the Senate is calling for my resignation, when in fact we need to come together because we need unite. We have such a formidable enemy, this is a war,” Duque said.

“How I wish the Senate had been more magnanimous and more appreciative of the efforts we’re trying to put in place from the time of Covid-19 began in this country,” he added.

Duque noted that the Philippines is “one of the first countries” that imposed an absolute travel ban on nationals from China and from its Special Administrative Regions.

“Because of this action, which the President had approved very decisively, had actually caused the country to buy time… The entry of the pandemic virus was delayed by a month,” he said.

He highlighted that another “definitive” move of the government is the implementation of an enhanced community quarantine to contain the spread of the virus.

At least 14 senators have signed a resolution seeking Duque’s resignation for his “failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, and inefficiency in performance”, which led to “poor planning, delayed, response, lack of transparency, and misguided and flip-flopping policies and measures” against Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said he would not be joining the Senate’s call for Duque to resign.

“I’m not joining the call of the senators for the Secretary’s resignation. There’s been no consensus with members of the House because this is a recent development,” he added.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said President Rodrigo Duterte decided that Duque will stay on as DOH Secretary.

The President has made a decision for Health Secretary Duque to stay put. He also expressed his appreciation for the senators’ gesture in giving him the opportunity to weigh his options on the performance of his SOH,” Medialdea said.

“Secretary Duque was made aware of the sentiments of the senators and the President expects him to work even harder to set aside any doubts on his capacity and sincerity to serve the public during these difficult times,” he added. (PNA)

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