Senator Nancy Binay today said that it would be an ideal time for the widely criticized Health Secretary Francisco Duque to do some much needed “soul-searching” as Metro Manila reverts into a two-week modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
“We’ve all seen that Secretary Duque really cannot handle our problem with COVID,” Binay flat-out told cable news channel ANC, citing several “red flags” committed by the health chief since late February, when the virus was first detected in the country.
She said this was made apparent in multiple Senate hearings.
“[When we] had our first case of COVID, we found out that we didn’t have contact tracing, that was for me the first sign. Another one is we found out in another hearing that the reason our COVID cases in the Philippines were initially low…in early March is because we didn’t have testing kits. Our testing capabilities were really lacking at the time,” the senator said.
Binay said that despite subsequent glaring slip-ups and numerous calls for Duque’s resignation, President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to replace the secretary, and this should prod Duque to reflect on his capabilities as health chief.
“It’s frustrating, but at the end of the day, it’s the call of the president whether to let go of Secretary Duque. But maybe it’s high time for the secretary to do some soul-searching if he really can do the job. Maybe it needs to come from him [if he can do the job],” Binay said.
The senator added that the two-week window should be used by authorities to listen to health workers and “continue a dialogue so that we can find a solution to this problem…[the] government should be the one to tell us what to do and at the moment I think that’s where it is lacking.”
Duterte, who’s lashed out on medical workers in a televised meeting for “not doing anything,” has ironically expressed support for the health secretary despite widespread criticisms in his handling of the coronavirus response. Duterte defended Duque in the same meeting saying he was puzzled by renewed calls for the health chief’s resignation.
“[Y]ou want me to fire Duque?…What was his sin? He did not import COVID,” Duterte said.
Duque is currently facing accusations of corruption, while the health department has been accused of underreporting the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. It doesn’t help that the department has been setting coronavirus testing targets that it has constantly missed.
Just a few weeks ago, Duque also had to retract a statement in which he wrongly claimed that the Philippines has flattened the pandemic curve. After the false statement drew flak, Duque backtracked and said the country’s COVID-19 infection curve was not “flattened” but “bent.”
As of yesterday afternoon, the Philippines has 106,330 confirmed cases, with 2,104 deaths and 65,821 recoveries.
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