Duterte still trusts Duque despite criticisms over DOH’s nCoV response — Palace

Robie de Guzman
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte reads a report on the 2019 novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) during a briefing at the Malacañan Palace on February 3, 2020. TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte still trusts Health Secretary Francisco Duque III despite criticisms from several lawmakers over his department’s handling of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) cases in the country, a Malacañang official said Wednesday, February 5.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles made the statement after opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan criticized Duque for not knowing details involving the spread of the disease in the country, and for failing to complete the contact tracing of plane passengers who traveled with two Chinese tourists who tested positive for 2019-nCoV.

Nograles called Pangilinan and the other senators’ accusations of failure of leadership against Duque “very unfair,” saying a lapse that could easily be rectified did not mean that the DOH’s efforts to contain the spread of the disease were a total failure.

“He’s hands-on with everything. He’s done his job so far. The President still has his trust and confidence kay Secretary Duque,” he told reporters in an interview in the Palace.

During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, senators grilled Duque for failing to complete the contact tracing following confirmation of positive nCoV cases in the Philippines.

The Health chief reasoned that airlines refused to share passengers’ contact information to protect their privacy, which was denied by local carriers Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines.

Duque, however, promised to complete the contact tracing process within two days.

Nograles said Duterte has not expressed disappointment over Duque during their Cabinet meeting on Tuesday night after the latter was chided by lawmakers earlier in the day.

He added that focusing on the “weakness” in contact tracing is not the correct way of managing an ongoing health crisis, adding that the public should look at the bigger picture by recognizing the government’s efforts to ensure the safety of Filipinos against the virus.

“You should look at the different aspects in terms of the management of the situation. There are several other aspects, the quarantine, health care, the testing, the protocols, coordination of different agencies, coordination with WHO (World Health Organization),” he said.

He also said that calling for Duque’s resignation is not the “proper thing to do” at a time when the government is working to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus in the country.

“Let’s move forward from there. I think that’s the best we can do at this time. Let’s just help one another,” he said. “Let’s not take away all the other efforts that the DOH family is doing… Mahirap ang trabaho na ginagawa ng mga health workers natin.”

“There was a lapse, it was admitted, and it will be rectified and we hope the public will continue to support and not constantly look at just one lapse and say failure na lahat. I think given the circumstances, our health workers have done a pretty good job,” he added. — RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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