Senators are worried that the recent flip-flopping statements of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III could cast doubts on the government’s efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic more effectively.

Senator Nancy Binay on Thursday, May 21, said she finds it alarming that Duque himself is “spreading false information” by claiming that there’s no evidence that asymptomatic COVID-19 patients are contagious.

“Sobrang nakakabahala, Mr President, kung ang secretary of health na mismo ang nagpapakalat ng maling information tungkol sa COVID-19,” Binay said during the Upper Chamber’s virtual Senate hearing on the government’s COVID-19 response.

(This is alarming, Mr President, if the secretary of health himself is spreading false information on COVID-19.)

Binay said the World Health Organization (WHO) did not say that asymptomatic patients, or patients who do not show symptoms of COVID-19, are not contagious.

“There are few reports of laboratory-confirmed cases who are truly asymptomatic, and, to date, there has been no documented asymptomatic transmission. This does not exclude the possibility that it may occur,” Binay said.


‘Very alarmed’

Reacting to Duque’s statement that the country is now in second wave of COVID-19 infections, going into third, Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said he was “very alarmed” over Duque’s statement saying these were “sowing panic amongst our people that we are [in] the second wave.”

“They should be very careful with their statements,” Zubiri said.

He added that the Philippines is the only country in the world to admit that it is in the second wave.

Zubiri stressed that the first 3 coronavirus cases in the Philippines that Duque was saying as the first wave were “not even a ripple.”

“How could that have been a wave?” Zubiri said.

Several government offiicials most notably Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea countered Duque’s claim saying he did not know what the health chief was talking about.

“Alam mo, hindi pronouncement ‘yan ng Presidente. Kailan ba lumabas ‘yang second wave? That, we will have to see because as far as I know, wala pa tayo sa second wave,” Medialdea said.

(You know, that’s not a pronouncement of the President. When did the second wave happen? That, we will have to see because as far as I know, we are not yet in the second wave.)

“Wala pa tayo sa second wave. Dinadasal natin, malakas siguro tayo magdasal. ‘Wag natin i-expect, ‘wag nating asahan pwede ba? Mahirapan tayo,” he added.

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the government’s COVID-19 response chief implementer, said in a statement that the country is trying to “prevent a COVID-19 second wave,” belying Duque’s second wave claims.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire came to her boss’s defense saying in a statement “In technical or epidemiological terms, we are already considered as being in the second wave. The first wave was a minor one, with only 3 cases at its peak, happened in January.”

Several health experts however argued that the 3 confirmed COVID-19 cases were too small to be considered a real wave and not enough to form an epidemic curve.

Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson would rather focus on something else than Duque’s “flip flopping”. “The more important issue is the competence and integrity of Sec. Duque.”  (Rommel F. Lopez)