Resignation calls for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III were renewed Friday after he acknowledged his responsibility for the delay of cash assistance for medical frontliners who lost their lives due to the coronavirus disease.
Duque’s Twitter statement came after he blamed the staff of the Department of Health during the televised meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 for supposedly having no sense of urgency in giving the mandated benefits under the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act.
“While I expressed disappointment towards some members of my team, I acknowledge that this is still my responsibility as SOH (Secretary of Health). I will make sure that we comply with the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, with proper documentation and identification of HCWs (healthcare workers),” Duque wrote.
The law states that healthcare workers who have been severely infected with COVID-19 in line of duty will receive P100,000 while those who have died “while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic” will have their family be compensated with P1 million.
The DOH only released a joint administrative order on the frontliners’ compensation on Tuesday.
Some senators have condemned the delay in the release of the cash assistance and called it “criminal” and “unforgivable” on the health agency’s part.
In the televised IATF meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte aired Friday morning, Duque didn’t mince words and placed the blame on his subordinates for the supposed delay.
“Yung pinapatutukan ko po, ‘yung 32 families na kailangan po ‘yung ayuda nila na P1 million, based on your directive, dapat ‘yun i-release,” he said to the chief executive.
“Kasi nakakahiya talaga, Sir, namatayan nga tapos nagpa-wardy wardy ‘yung mga tao ko na parang walang sense of urgency. Kaya po ang sama sama po ng loob ko, Mr. President,” Duque added.
Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson called him out and said that the health chief’s tendency to blame others “for his pattern of failures” and be able to get away from it each time was “kind of boring.”
“Now, he even blames his inadequacies and neglect on those who have not received the compensation allowances, by claiming that some of them have two wives,” Lacson said.
“Goodness gracious! Mr. Secretary, they are no longer around to defend or explain themselves. Just go,” he added.
Meanwhile, Duque’s latest tweet did not sit well with Filipinos who continuously urged him to resign despite holding himself accountable for the compensation delay.
“Please resign, Filipinos deserve a competent leader who REALLY prioritizes the health and safety of the country especially during this time of pandemic. #DuqueResign #MassTestingNowPH,” a Twitter user said in response to the health chief’s post.
A medical student slammed Duque for “demoralizing” his “under compensated, underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked” employees on national television.
“If he claims that DOH has no sense of urgency, isn’t that a reflection of his poor and ineffective leadership? If you are an employee of any company and your boss is like this, won’t you feel betrayed? We don’t deserve leaders like him whose mindset is to always just please one man. Always respect your workers! #DuqueResign,” he said.
Another Twitter user said that the public does not want Duque’s apologies but proactive actions and strategic management as the health chief.
“Hindi namin kailangan ng paulit-ulit na apologies mo. Kailangan namin ng agarang aksyon at strategic na pamamalakad. Hindi natatapos ang accountability sa paghingi ng tawad. Magresign ka,” she wrote.
Paolo Benjamin Guico, vocalist of the award-winning Ben&Ben band, also joined the calls for Duque’s resignation after the latter’s remarks on-air.
Duque, please resign. Wag mong isisi ang iyong kapalpakan sa mga taong nagbubuwis-buhay para sa bayan. The country badly needs strong leadership in the DOH.
After countless chances we've given you, it's crystal clear with the numbers and facts: you have failed us. Please resign.
— Paolo Benjamin (@PaoloBenjamin_) June 5, 2020
Duque was previously asked to leave his post as the health secretary by at least 14 senators who accused him of his supposed “lack of competence, efficiency, and foresight bordering on negligence” in terms of handling the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Private hospitals also asked Duterte to fire the health chief, claiming that they had “enough of the promises” of the DOH and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation.
DOH has been under fire for supposedly procuring overpriced medical supplies, falsely claiming that the country has “low” COVID-19 cases compared to other countries and failing to contact trace all of the passengers of the first two cases.
The health agency was also accused of reportedly prioritizing various public officials in the COVID-19 testing, as well as failing to secure sufficient personal protective equipment suits for workers in the first months of the pandemic.
It has also been criticized for its recent manner of reporting COVID-19 cases, which some public officials said reflected its supposed lack of transparency in disclosing the real data.
Some Filipinos earlier observed that the health agency appeared to be delayed in acknowledging crucial information about the viral disease which greatly affects the response efforts of the government.