MANILA – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III still enjoys President Rodrigo Duterte’s trust and confidence, despite the criticisms the country’s top health official has been receiving in connection with the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
“Habang nandiyan po sa pwesto si Secretary Duque (While Secretary Duque is at the helm [of the Department of Health]), he continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of the President,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual presser aired on state-run PTV-4.
Roque’s statement came as Duque continued to bear the brunt of several senators and groups’ anger due to the health chief’s supposed incompetence in handling the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.
Despite renewed calls for Duque’s resignation, Duterte merely advised the former not to dwell on criticisms being hurled against him over his way of handling the health crisis.
Asked why Duterte continues to defend Duque, Roque said, “Na kay Presidente na po iyan. For now, since hindi pa po natatanggal ang kahit sinong miyembro ng Gabinete, ibig sabihin, may tiwala pa rin po ang ating Presidente sa lahat ng miyembro ng Gabinete (It is up to the President. For now, the President still trusts all members of his Cabinet since he has not fired any of them).”
Some senators signed a resolution in April, calling for Duque’s resignation for his supposed “failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, and inefficiency” in addressing the Covid-19 crisis.
Duque also earned a backlash due to his claim that the Philippines is on the second wave of Covid-19 infections, a pronouncement opposed by some Cabinet officials.
He later clarified that the country is still on the “first major wave of sustained community transmission.”
An association composed of 744 private hospitals also asked Duterte on Monday to replace Duque with “someone who can deliver better” in addressing the health concerns of the country.
Duterte has shown no intent in letting go of Duque, as he merely told the latter on Monday not to be “too touchy” on the criticisms against his handling of the health crisis.
“Alam mo, huwag kang masyadong ano dito (You know, don’t be too) – touchy sa mga (on) issues because always, there will be pros and cons,” he advised Duque during a meeting held at Malacañan Palace late Monday night. “Pakinggan na lang natin (Let’s just listen to them) because this is a democracy.“
Malacañang earlier said the government needs Duque amid the country’s fight against Covid-19. (ia/PNA)