MANILA, Philippines — Sen.Panfilo Lacson on Monday expressed frustration over the fact that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has yet to be fired for his alleged mishandling of the government's COVID-19 response.
"It is not only me who disagrees with the president for not firing Secretary Duque. There were 14 senators who had earlier asked him to resign. I don't think that number has changed."
He added that other health officials and members of the medical community have similarly called for the embattled secretary's resignation.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday night once again threw his support behind Duque and defended him from critics, saying in a mix of English and FIlipino: "What was his sin? he did not import COVID."
In response, Lacson said he "couldn't understand what 'amulet' or magic potion Duque has as far as the president is concerned."
"His failure to do a simple contact tracing on the co-passengers who took the same flight as the virus-infected couple from Wuhan, China, further aggravated by his refusal to assume responsibility by blaming other agencies of government when it was his duty to coordinate that effort was his first major offense in a series of devastating blunders," the senator argued.
Duterte defends Duque, drags medical frontliners
Duterte on Sunday night ceded a tightening of quarantine measures in Metro Manila to medical frontliners who pleaded for relief as COVID-19 infections in the country continued to set record-highs four days in a row.
In addition to defending his health secretary, the president, during a televised address to the public, berated medical frontliners for "demeaning" the government and inciting a "revolution."
The Philippine College of Physicians on Monday issued a clarification on Monday in response to the president's rants but also said that it was "taken aback and surprised" at some of Duterte's comments about the medical workers who issued the call for an enhanced community quarantine.
Dr. Mario Panaligan, PCP president, clarified: "If you closely review the virtual conference on August 1, there was never a call for a revolt nor was there any threat of leaving patients on their own since our oath instructs us to 'first do no harm' to anyone who needs our help."
The Philippines is currently under the longest community quarantine in the world but continues to log an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases.
The Department of Health on Monday placed the national caseload at 106,330 and fatalities at 2,104. — Bella Perez-Rubio
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