President Rodrigo Duterte has publicly expressed confidence on Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s much-criticized handling of the coronavirus response.

“Gusto ko lang malaman ng lahat na ang (I want everybody to know that the) secretary ng Department of Health ay si Secretary Duque. And this government, my government, my department, will be guided by what Secretary Duque would tell us to do,” he said in an address aired shortly before midnight on Tuesday.

“I will listen to the conflicting claims. But in the end, it is the Secretary of Health who decides. His — your word is the law here,” he added.

“Thank you, sir,” was Duque’s response.

​In April, at least 14 senators signed a joint resolution calling for the immediate resignation of Duque “for his failure of leadership” in handling the country’s response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

READ: At least 14 senators want Duque’s ‘immediate resignation’

The lawmakers claimed Duque’s “poor planning, delayed response, lack of transparency, and misguided and flip-flopping policies and measures actions“ endangered and continue to endanger the lives of healthcare professional, other frontliners and the Filipino people.

Three days later, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said the president had decided to keep Duque in his post. (