Health Secretary Francisco Duque III seems to have been raised to the level of a saint who could do almost nothing wrong, Senator Sonny Angara said.
“I’m happy the president has pushed everyone to act on it because the bottom line here is we give more than lip service to our heroic health workers,” Angara said in a statement.
“As for Duque, it seems he has been elevated to beatific levels already, despite his numerous missteps,” he added.
Angara made the remark after President Rodrigo Duterte expressed his dismay over the failure of the Department of Health (DOH) to immediately distribute the death and sickness benefits for health workers who either died or fell ill in the fight against COVID-19.
Angara said Duterte seemed to have exonerated Duque for the gaffe and even apologized for dragging the secretary to his hometown Davao City.
The President ordered that a new team be given the task of distributing the death benefits of P1 million to health workers’ families, and P100,000 for health workers who get severely infected.
Duque, in the briefing which was aired on Friday morning, told Duterte that his subordinates failed to act with a sense of urgency in dispensing the health and death benefits.
The benefits were provided for under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Law which Congress passed in a special session to fund the country’s response to COVID-19 and its dire effects on Filipinos.
Amid calls for his ouster, Duque has said that he served at the pleasure of the President.
In response to the incident, Duque blamed his staff, saying they had no sense of urgency over the matter.
“Nakakahiya talaga, sir. Namatayan na nga tapos nagpakawardi-wardi ‘yung mga tao ko na parang walang sense of urgency,” the health chief said.
After blaming his subordinates on Thursday night, Duque on Friday said that he was taking responsibility for the delay in the distribution of the health workers’ benefits.
“While I expressed disappointment towards some members of my team, I acknowledge that this is still my responsibility as secretary of health,” Duque said on Twitter.
“I will make sure that we comply with the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, with proper documentation and identification of health care workers,” he added./Stacy Ang