For the first time, President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed openness to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III leaving his Cabinet.

During a televised address aired late Tuesday, Duterte said he would be willing to let go of his health chief but only if he tendered his resignation.

“[K]ung si Duque will offer to resign voluntarily, tatanggapin ko. Pero kung
sabihin mo ako ang magsabi sa kanya ‘mag-resign ka,’ that will never happen,” the president said.

On Aug. 17, Duterte revealed that Duque had tried to resign twice, but rejected both attempts since the health chief “did not do anything wrong.”

Duterte said he would only sack Duque if the latter would prove to be a corrupt official.

“‘Pag may nakita akong mali sa kanya, maski sampung libo lang o singko mil, talagang sabi ko yayariin kita kasi ipahamak mo ako sa tao eh. Nilagay kita diyan tapos sisirain
mo,” he said.

“Pero ‘yung outright dismissal because it is the clamor of the public. Maski kaming dalawa na
lang ni Duque and the rest of the Philippines, I will stand by him,” he added.

The Covid-19 pandemic has especially been a controversial time for Duque.

But despite controversies, including when Duque insisted to not impose a travel ban during the early days of the pandemic and was linked to corruption within the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. and deficiently handled pandemic funds, Duterte has consistently stood up for Duque. John Ezekiel J. Hirro