A look at the online posts that led Leachon to leave as COVID-19 adviser

June 17, 2020 - 10:02 PM
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Dr. Tony Leachon photo on Facebook

Dr. Tony Leachon was eased out of his position as special adviser to the National Task Force against COVID-19 (NTF) after he bared some issues involving the public health system online. 

In a tweet on June 17, Leachon announced that he will no longer serve at the task force. He also expressed his respect to NTF Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. 

I have my full respect for Sec. Charlie Galvez & we will remain as good friends. Lots of good memories. But I have to move on,” he said.  

Leachon cited his different views with the Department of Health’s policies on handling the novel coronavirus pandemic as the reason why he quit the task force. This includes issues of transparency and data management.

I left NTF due to my differences with DOH policies e.g. Lack of sense of urgency, problems in COVID data management, and transparency in communication process,” he said. 

“That’s life. That’s how it is. There’s a silver lining though. Thank you very much,” he added.  

Leachon, who was also the former director of the PhilHealth, had been vocal about his views on public health reform through his social accounts on Facebook and Twitter. 

He also often responds to inquiries related to the COVID-19 data he shares on Twitter.  

Criticisms vs government’s COVID-19 response

Four days ago, Leachon aired his frustration on Twitter. He said that the Inter-agency Task Force “lost its focus” in managing the outbreak.  

The next day, Leachon in a televised interview also criticized the reliability of the DOH’s report on the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.  

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Leachon said that it was Galvez who talked to him about leaving NTF.

“Hindi nila nagustuhan ‘yung manner that I communicate to the public as to the many lapses of the Department of Health,” Leachon said 

Leachon was the latest official who resigned due to supposed internal issues within government agencies.  

Last April, former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia revealed that the IATF’s disregard of his proposals to continue the construction of critical infrastructure projects and his post-pandemic policy approach was among the reasons why he left.  

The next month, former Eliseo Rio Jr., undersecretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology, also cited confidential internal issues for his departure.  

Public comments of Leachon

Ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte‘s national address where he announced the community quarantine protocols he is implementing in the country, Leachon expressed disappointment in the IATF’s response.

It’s a sad day as we anticipate the IATF recommendations on Monday to PRRD. Forgive me, I think the lead agency has lost focus in everything. Risk communication, priorities, data management, and execution of all plans,” he tweeted.

The IATF, NTC and DOH said they have been “doing their best” to prevent the deadly virus from spreading. 

However, Leachon said that the lack of clear and transparent communication with the health department causes confusion among Filipinos.  

Leachon stressed this in a separate interview with CNN Philippines.  

“You don’t just say those numbers there without explanation whether this is fresh or the deaths were actually from a month ago because based on the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Monday, they will rely on those particular figures. And number two, what must be prioritized given we have finite resources?” he said.  

On June 15, Leachon also shared a cryptic post, that is, a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche: “People don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.” 

Moreover, on June 16Leachon told Duque to step up and “hear” the concerns of the public amid fresh calls for the latter’s resignation.  

After he resigned, Leachon explained that he made these comments as “an episodic, emotional outburst.” 

“It was an episodic, emotional outburst like a private citizen, not in any way to criticize in a negative way but I feel it’s a constructive comment so that the health agency will shape up… Masakit sa akin kasi. I know I can add value to the crusade, but I don’t want also to be a burden to Sec. Galvez,” Leachon said 

Galvez: Leachon’s preemptive releases jeopardized NTF 

In a statement issued on Wednesday evening, Galvez said that while he respected Leachon’s decision to quit, he said that the latter’s “preemptive” releases of information before the official announcement put the IATF at risk. 

Dr. Leachon’s preemptive releases of some information prior to official announcement and adaption jeopardized the communication efforts of the IATF and NTF and caused unwarranted misunderstanding between two entities that should be working together,” Galvez said.  

He has been cautioned but remained deaf to collegial advice. Constructive criticism among colleagues is most welcome to assure improvement but this should have been done internally to maintain unity of effort,” he added.  

Galvez assured that despite the imperfect processes, the IATF, NTF and other related agencies are dedicated to their jobs in helping Filipinos cope with the crisis.  

The problems we faced in the last few months and continue to confront are all new where we learned as we go. Such is the case not only with the Philippines but the rest of the world.  In time, we shall smoothen out our processes,” he said.