By Ian Raphael Lopez
While earning the ire of many netizens, and even one half of a famous singer-duo, Health Secretary Francisco Duque still had one defender of his bungled response to the Covid-19 pandemic: President Rodrigo Duterte.
This is even if it was reported that Duterte was seething with rage over how the families of 32 medical frontliners who died fighting the pandemic has yet to receive compensation from the government.
Duterte gave an ultimatum of three days for the government to produce money ranging from P100,000 to one million pesos for each frontliner-victim’s family — stipulated in the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act.
The delay was explained as due to bureaucratic challenges in sourcing funds for the cause.
However, as senators grilled Duque for the delay over the compensation, he still blamed his own subordinates for the mishap: “Nakakahiya talaga. Namatayan na nga, tapos nagpawardi-wardi ang mga tao ko. Parang walang sense of urgency. Talagang ang sama-sama talaga ng loob ko.”
And President Duterte sided with him, ultimately. The President says that as Health Secretary, Duque can’t do the job by himself.
“You cannot run your own errands, ‘yung trabaho mo, kung ikaw lahat. Somebody has to do it for you. Itong mga p****i** na ito, I do not think they are prepared to join the government.”
Calls have been mounting for Duque to resign, as many have perceived his lackluster handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the early part of the crisis Duque was in chorus with other government officials, who downplayed the first cases of Covid-19 in the country, then caught from overseas.
But as the cases mounted, he also won’t commit to a mass testing program, cited by experts as an effective tool to curb the pandemic’s curve. Duque said then that doing it is “not as simple as others may want to appear.”
Duque was also criticized when he assigned the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) as a Covid-19 referral center, thereby depriving many of the metropolis’ urban poor of a facility to treat other diseases.
Personal protective equipment (PPEs), an essential for the medical frontliners, were also found to be overpriced. A Senate hearing showed that PPEs from China were priced higher than those bought privately.
And Duque has also been mocked for saying that asymptomatic carriers of the virus aren’t contagious — a stand contrary to scientific consensus worldwide.
More tomatoes came when Duque said that the country has already been experiencing its second wave of infections. So much more that even Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque wasn’t keen on that quote, likening Duque’s mishap into a tone-deaf member of an orchestra. But that orchestra’s conductor might not be able to listen. President Duterte has stuck by his health secretary in the middle of it all.
In the issue of PPEs, Duterte said that he did not really care whether these were expensive, so long as they have already been procured.
Duque got another pat on the back on Friday, when Duterte defended him in a press briefing.
While Duque and the Health Department has bent to public pressure over its handling of the pandemic, the “resign Duque” calls have been mounting: the latest to call for it was not any medical professionals group, but from famous singer Paolo Guico of the popular Ben&Ben.
“After countless chances we’ve given you, it’s crystal clear with the numbers and facts: you have failed us. Please resign,” Guico said in a tweet. [P]
Photo taken from The Philippine Star.