Duterte trusts Duque; Pacman urges DOH chief to quit

Pia Lee-Brago, Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) – December 22, 2020 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III still enjoys President Duterte’s trust despite calls for him to be replaced, Malacañang said yesterday.

“All members of the Cabinet serve at the pleasure of the President. For now, the President continues to trust Secretary Duque,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing. “He (Duterte) just asked him (Duque) to answer the accusations of (Foreign Affairs) Secretary Locsin.”

For Sen. Manny Pacquiao, it is either Duque resigns or President Duterte fires him to spare the country from more blunders in fighting the pandemic. Pacquiao noted that Filipinos would have started getting their COVID vaccinations next month if Duque’s “blunder” did not happen.

“I could really say it’s because of DOH chief Secretary Duque, of his blunder. I’m sorry to say that. I’m just being frank,” Pacquiao told ANC in Filipino. “My suggestion – not only me – is for him to voluntarily resign so that our countrymen will feel better about what’s happening… for delicadeza.”

Locsin confirmed yesterday that Duque was the one who “dropped the ball” in the negotiations with US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer for a COVID-19 vaccine supply to the country.

But the country’s top diplomat also said in an interview over CNN Philippines that the blame game should stop.

“Yes. By now it’s already out,” he answered when asked if the person who dropped the ball was Duque. “I’m not interested in recriminations, I’m interested in results. We can’t keep blaming.”

Locsin said vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. is now the sole procuring authority to work with the Department of Health (DOH). Last week, he said the Philippines was assured of getting 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer by January until “somebody dropped the ball.”

On Wednesday, Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said the Philippines’ deal with Pfizer for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines is still “in progress.”

The ambassador noted that the January 2021 delivery date of the vaccines was pushed back to June next year because other nations finalized the deals earlier and the Philippines “did not act quick enough on the confidential disclosure agreement (CDA) for the procurement.”

Pacquiao stressed he does not personally dislike Duque as the latter is “a good man,” but noted that he was responsible for some major blunders in the DOH’s fight against the pandemic.

When asked about Duterte’s repeated defense of Duque, Pacquiao said: “I think he must be replaced. I appeal to the President to replace Secretary Duque to ease the plight of our countrymen.”



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