By Rommel F. Lopez

“While I do not and cannot question the presidential prerogative to hire and fire his Cabinet secretaries and other political appointees not protected by the civil service law, it is kind of boring to see Sec. Duque pointing fingers at his subordinates and other people for his pattern of failures in running the DOH – and getting away with it each time.”

This was how Senator Panfilo Lacson reacted about the seeming immunity from responsibility of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III after senators called out the Health Department’s failure to provide financial compensation for health workers who were infected with or died from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

“Many of us are starting to wonder what “amulet” DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III has to deserve such a special treatment,” he said.

On the last session of day of the Senate on Thursday, senators blasted the DOH for not providing the financial compensation to health workers.  The DOH, in its own defense, cited the lack of the Act’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).

Addressing this issue during a meeting with top Cabinet officials in Davao City with President Duterte aired on Friday morning, Duque blamed his subordinates’ lack of urgency for the delay in the distribution of financial aid.

“Nakakahiya talaga sir e namatayan na nga tapos nagpa-wardy wardy ‘yung mga tao ko na parang walang sense of urgency, sir. Iyon ang talagang ang sama-sama po ng loob ko, Mr. President,” Duque said to Duterte.

READ: ‘Nakakahiya,’ ‘walang sense of urgency’: Duque blames staff, keeps post

Later in the day, Duque seemed to backtrack on his earlier statements and acknowledged that whatever happens in the health department, it is still his responsibility as Secretary of Health.

“Now, he even blames his inadequacies and neglect on those who have not received the compensation allowances, by claiming that some of them have two wives. Goodness gracious! Mr. Secretary, they are no longer around to defend or explain themselves,” Lacson reacted seemingly alluding to an allegation hurled by Duque against one of the health workers who died of COVID-19.

“Just go.” was Lacson’s advice to Duque.

Lacson was one of the 15 senators who signed a resolution seeking the Duque’s immediate resignation over his alleged “failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight and inefficiency.”

Back in May, Lacson tweeted that “there are many among the 170,000 licensed physicians in the country who may be more honest and competent” amid reports that the Palace is scouting for a new DOH secretary.

Despite all of the criticisms against Duque, the Palace said Duterte wants Duque to “stay put.”

This is not the first time Duque passed the blame to his own people. Speaking to reporters after a Senate hearing on the government’s response to the pandemic in February, Duque dodged criticisms of his “failure of leadership” in handling the COVID-19 crisis and blamed the problem “within some of the operating units” of the DOH.

“I’ve always assumed that they already have the competence, that they already know what they’re doing, and that they are familiar with the protocols,” Duque said about his subordinates, adding that it is not his job to “get into operational details.”

During the same Senate hearing, Duque also blamed airline companies for the slow COVID-19 contact tracing efforts of the government but representatives of both Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific downright denied this saying they have shared to DOH the contact details of the passengers.