MANILA – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III will only be replaced once President Rodrigo Duterte loses his trust and confidence in him, Malacañang said on Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after a news report quoted sources claiming that Duterte was scouting for Duque’s replacement amid calls for the resignation of the Department of Health (DOH) chief.
“Wala po akong alam sa artikulo na ‘yan (I know nothing about that article). Kahit sino pa po sa Gabinete (Anyone in the Cabinet), we all serve at the pleasure of the President. Kung nawalan po ng tiwala ang Presidente (If the President loses his trust), anytime, any Cabinet member can be removed,” he said in a Laging Handa public briefing.
Roque pointed out that Duque still serves “at the pleasure” of the President amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
“Cabinet members serve at the pleasure of the President, hanggang di pa po natatanggal e meron pa pong (until he hasn’t been removed, he still has) trust and confidence,” he added.
Lawmakers renewed calls for Duque’s resignation after the DOH was accused of overpricing the cost of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) Covid-19 testing packages.
Duterte has sought an investigation into the alleged PhilHealth anomaly.
“Bibigyan ko po ng kumpirmasyon na nababahala ang Presidente lalung-lalo doon sa pagkakaiba ng presyo ng testing kit (I’m confirming that the President is alarmed over the difference in prices of testing kits),” Roque said. “So nais po niya ng kasagutan and an investigation (So he wants an explanation and an investigation).”
In a Senate hearing held Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon raised the concern that the country could lose over PHP8.3 billion due to alleged overpricing in PhilHealth’s testing package.
He questioned PhilHealth’s payment of PHP8,150 per Covid-19 test, stressing that it is double the price of PHP4,000 per test being done by the Philippine Red Cross.
Aside from overpriced testing packages, other sectors have also called for Duque’s resignation for his handling of the Covid-19 health crisis as well as his recent claim that the country is now experiencing the second wave of Covid-19 infection.
Duque later retracted his statement saying the country is still in its “first major wave of sustained transmission” after several Cabinet members disagreed with his initial remark.
Last month, at least 14 senators filed a resolution asking Duque to resign for his “failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight and inefficiency” in handling the Covid-19 crisis in the country.
Duterte appreciated the gesture made by the senators but decided to let Duque keep his post. (IA/PNA)