MANILA (18 June 2020) – Former special adviser to the National Task Force (NTF) against Covid-19 Dr. Anthony “Tony” Leachon was removed from his post because President Rodrigo Duterte disliked how he cast doubts on the Department of Health’s (DOH) reporting of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) data, Malacañang said on Thursday.
In a virtual presser, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque explained that while it was not Duterte who fired Leachon, the President was displeased with his remarks against the DOH when he should be doing his job as the consultant to the chief implementer of the country’s National Policy Against Covid-19, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.
“The President did not say he should resign kasi lahat naman kami hindi kami talaga sigurado kung anong papel niya (because all of us were not sure what his role was),” he said.
Roque denied Leachon’s claim that he and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III had a hand in his removal, saying Galvez decided to let go of Leachon because of Duterte’s displeasure.
“Siguro po hindi po ako, hindi si Secretary Duque ang nag-udyok kay (It was not me, it was not Secretary Duque who prompted) Secretary Galvez to let go of him. It was a declaration of the President himself,” he said.
Roque recalled how the President questioned Leachon’s expression of disappointment over the DOH’s Covid-19 response efforts.
“Nung huling pagpupulong ko kay Presidente, nanggaling naman po kay Presidente na ‘Bakit nagsasalita ng ganito ‘tong si Leachon?’ (During my last meeting with the President, he asked ‘Why is Leachon saying those things?) So let me correct you Dr. Leachon, hindi po ako, hindi si Secretary Duque, mismong si Presidente po (It was not me, it was not Secretary Duque, it was the President himself who) noted that you should not be doing what you were doing,” he said.
Roque said even members of the task force wondered why they were being attacked by Leachon, who was supposed to be an ally.
“Nung siya po ay nagsalita casting doubts dun sa figures ng DOH e talagang lahat po ng miyembro ng strategic task force ay talagang nagtatanong ‘Bakit tayo tinitira ng sarili nating kakampi’ (When he was talking, casting doubts on the figures of the DOH, the members of the strategic task force were wondering ‘Why is he attacking an ally?),” he said.
No monopoly of the truth
Roque said Leachon’s remarks made it appear that the DOH was hiding the real Covid-19 situation in the country.
“Kaya nga po kami nagalit e kasi pinalalabas niya nagsisinungaling ang lahat except siya (That’s why we were angry because he made it appear that everyone, except him, was lying),” he said. “We are perfecting the recording of cases. We have not perfected it yet but we are striving to improve and we will always give the truth and the true numbers as far as we know, to the people.”
Roque challenged Leachon to prove that the DOH was manipulating Covid-19 data.
“You do not have the monopoly of the truth and we have never lied. Saan po kami nagsinungaling? Dapat ilathala niya ‘yan (When did we lie? He should put it on paper),” he said.
Roque also defended the DOH’s supposed late reporting of Covid-19 data, saying data from local government units, regional offices, and labs also came in late.
He, however, assured that the DOH is taking steps to solve delays in the reporting of Covid-19 data by automating the Covid Kaya application.
“Meron na pong solusyon diyan yung Covid Kaya app na dinidevelop. We’re hoping to automate it para mawala na po yung lag pagdating sa reporting (We have a solution for that, the Covid Kay app, which is being developed. We’re hoping to automate it so that we can remove the lag in reporting Covid-19 data),” Roque said.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Leachon bared that he vacated his post but remained to have his full respect for Galvez.
He previously expressed disappointment over the DOH’s Covid-19 response efforts and reporting of Covid-19 data.
Galvez, in a separate statement, said Leachon was removed because his preemptive releases of information “jeopardized the communication efforts” of the NTF and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and caused misunderstanding between the two entities. (ia/PNA)