President Rodrigo Duterte once again threw his support on his beleaguered Health Secretary Francisco Duque III after 14 senators signed a resolution calling for the latter’s ‘immediate resignation’.


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


Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said the president has decided to keep Duque in his post.

“The President has made a decision for Health Secretary Duque to stay put,” Medialdea said.

The Executive Secretary added that Duterte appreciates what the senators did giving him an opportunity to better look at Duque’s performance.

Medialdea said after the senators’ call, the president expects Duque to work harder to prove his critics wrong.

Before Malacañang’s show of support, Duque said in a statement that he “serves at the pleasure of the president” and that he “will continue to serve the country to the best of my abilities “and continue to “be in the trenches with our health care workers and frontliners.”

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is conspicuously silent on the matter with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano giving only his ‘personal opinion’ on Duque’s resignation since, according to him, there is no consensus in the House about it.

“My personal opinion is I’m not joining the call of the senators for the secretary’s resignation,” Cayetano said.

“I have not consulted or there’s been no consensus with members of House because this is a recent development,” the leader of the Lower Chamber added.

The House Speaker added that House members would rather “get everyone together” during the crisis.

Cayetano added that so far he is satisfied with the performance of Duque since the Health Secretary is able to “answer” his phone calls and questions.

“Madali talaga ngayon to say na resign ito, ito may kasalanan (It’s easy to ask for resignation…that he’s the culprit). I don’t know right now. I’m not in the position to judge the performance of the secretary because we’re still in the middle of asking questions but I can tell you, he’s been answering my phone calls, he’s been answering the questions that I have,” Cayetano said.

This is not the first time the president has rejected calls from senators for the firing of Duque as Health Secretary.

Back in February, during the early stages of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in the country, senators grilled Duque in a Senate hearing after it was revealed that only 17 percent of the 331 plane passengers who were with the infected Chinese couple in the same flight had been tracked by authorities.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said then that Duque still has President Duterte’s “trust and confidence” even after some senators accused the Health chief of failure of leadership.

Nograles dismissed the senators’ call for Duque to resign saying it was not the “proper thing to do right now”.

“It’s not the call of the time to do something as drastic as that,” he said.

During the same hearing, Duque blamed local carriers Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific for the delay in contact tracing saying the airlines had refused to release passengers’ contact details to protect their privacy.  This was immediately denied by the airlines’ representatives at the hearing.

Apart from these gaffes, Duque made a series of blunders which the senators used as basis for their call to have him removed from the Health department.

In January, Duque advised against a travel ban on China.

“Certainly that’s one of the possible options that we are looking at, but not at this very moment. The reason being, your honor, is we have to be very careful also of possible repercussions of doing this, in light of the fact that confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus are not limited to China,” Duque said during the question hour he attended at the House of Representatives.

Days after making that statement, Duque relented on his statement against a travel ban.  Foreigners coming to the country from China, Hong Kong, Macau, and even Taiwan were banned to enter briefly.

On April 9, Duque claimed without basis, that the Philippines had a relatively “low” number of COVID-19 cases. However, the Philippines did not conduct any mass testing at that time.  The country now has the most COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia with 5,660 cases of coronavirus, with 362 deaths and 435 recoveries as of Thursday.

Duque said in a statement that he will answer the allegations against him in “due time”.   (Rommel F. Lopez)