Senate will order Duque to explain DOH actions during coronavirus crisis

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Senate Seal

The Senate will summon Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to explain his alleged “failure in leadership” during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis and other issues raised in a resolution calling for his resignation

Citing on Friday Duque’s alleged inadequate response to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), at least 14 senators earlier signed a resolution seeking his resignation.

President Rodrigo Duterte said Duque would stay as Department of Health (DOH) Secretary.

“As a matter of course, a public hearing will be conducted after first reading (of the resolution),” Senator Panfilo Lacson said, referring to the resolution filed Thursday.

“Not only will it give Sec. Duque the opportunity to explain his side, it will also give all other resource persons in the medical community and whoever may be invited to shed light to further articulate their views with the end in view of passing relevant legislation on our part,” he said.

“At the end of the day, the public will be enlightened after witnessing for themselves the open discussion of issues at hand,” he said.

Among issues raised in Philippine Senate Resolution No. 362 were the DOH’s  failure to stockpile on medical equipment that left several health workers exposed to the highly-contagious virus, as well as delayed and contradicting policies that worsened the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

“Ang kino-consider namin i-refer sa Committee of the Whole pero paguusapan namin ‘yan, ica-caucus namin ‘yan para organized (We are considering to refer the resolution to the Committee of the Whole, but we are still discussing it, we will have a caucus so that it will be organized.),” Lacson said.

“‘Pag Committee of the Whole, Senate President ang magpe-preside (If we refer it to the Committee of the Whole, the Senate President will preside.),” said Lacson.

If not, the resolution is expected to be referred to the Senate Committee on Health.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III confirmed that the resolution will be discussed once the Senate session resumes.

“Secretary Duque is a friend, but when almost two thirds of the Senate, perhaps more, receive complaints from health workers, DOH employees and those in the direct line of responses, I cannot not support PSR 362,” he said.

“Anyway, the Senate resolution did not ask the President to remove the SOH. The call was for him to resign,” he added.

Senator  Bong Go, Senate health committee chair, earlier said he was not in favor of a change in DOH leadership during the coronavirus crisis.

Health officials should be held accountable after the crisis, Go had said.

The COVID-19 situation in the Philippines could not have been worse had proactive contact tracing measures were taken by the DOH, Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa.

“Personally, my strongest protest is on his (Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s) lack of sincerity in the conduct of contact tracing on the co-passengers of the Wuhan couple who were first confirmed COVID-19 case[s] in the country. He kept on passing the buck,” Dela Rosa said in a message to reporters.

“Had that contact tracing been successfully done, maybe our present situation could not have been this worse,” he added.

Responding to the resolution, Duque said he was “hurt” by the resignation call, saying he did not understand the “lack of leadership” that senators cited in their resolution.

Duque said he did not understand the supposed “lack of leadership” that senators cited in a resolution that asked him to step down from his post.

“Hindi ko po alam kung ano pang dapat kong gagawin. Ginawa naman po natin lahat ng magagawa natin (I don’t know what else I should do. We did everything we could.),” he said.

The Philippines, he said, was among the first countries to impose lockdowns and ban travel to and from China and parts of South Korea to halt the spread of the respiratory disease.

The health department also beefed up its COVID-19 testing capacity to 16 laboratories from just one facility, he said.

Duque added the government also successfully repatriated hundreds of Filipinos from a coronavirus-struck ship in Japan and Wuhan in central China, where the respiratory disease first emerged late last year.

“Siguro maganda sabihan nila kung anong tingin nila ang pagkukulang at mas maganda siguro na merong malinaw, konkretong suhestyon para mapag-aralan (Perhaps it will be good if they identify shortcomings and it will be better if they give clear, concrete suggestions that could be studied.),” said Duque.

The resolution against Duque is expected to be tackled once Congress resumes session on May 4, 2020./Stacy Ang

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