‘What’s wrong with Secretary Duque?’ Ping Lacson, netizens weigh in as Duterte defends health chief anew

August 3, 2020 - 7:59 PM
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Francisco Duque in Dengvaxia hearing
Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during the Dengvaxia hearing in the Senate. (The STAR/Geremy Pintolo)

Filipino online users shared “receipts” supposedly showing how beleaguered Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is handling the COVID-19 pandemic in the country after President Rodrigo Duterte defended him anew amid continuous resignation calls.

The chief executive in his televised national address aired late Sunday night hit back at the critics of the top health official and said that Duque was not responsible for “importing” COVID-19 in the country.

“For example, Secretary Duque, they want your neck. Then I asked you, ‘Okay, you want me to fire Duque?’ Let me be satisfied. Anong kasalanan ng tao? He did not import COVID,” Duterte said.

“He was there all the time and ang infection was overwhelming not only for the Philippines. I do not want to compare it with any country but it was a global thing,” he added.

Duterte called for an emergency meeting with core members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases a day after medical frontliners appealed for him to revert Metro Manila to an enhanced community quarantine for two weeks.

Around 40 medical societies wrote an open letter that urged the government to reimpose ECQ in a bid to temporarily ease the healthcare system and “recalibrate” current strategies done against COVID-19.

Duterte later on placed the National Capital Region and some of its surrounding provinces consistently topping the list of COVID-19 active cases to a modified ECQ from August 4 to 18.

Meanwhile, Duterte’s move to protect Duque did not sit well with some Filipinos, including Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, who responded to the chief executive in a tweet.

Last February, Duque blamed the local airlines that carried the country’s first two COVID-19 patients for supposedly invoking confidentiality on contact tracing efforts of the passengers they had flown with.

The airlines denied his claims and said that they had provided the health agency with the full flight manifest complete with the contact details of each passenger.

Meanwhile, other members of the local online community listed down how Duque has responded to the pandemic in rebuttal to Duterte’s question in his speech.

‘Ano nga ba ang kasalanan ni Duque?’

“Ano nga ba kasalanan ni Duque?” a Twitter user said with a thinking emoji and a screengrab of a Philstar.com report that featured a timeline during the first months of the pandemic.

Last January, Duque was reluctant to the idea of imposing a travel ban on Chinese nationals and said that the Asian giant might question why the government was not banning other foreigners that time.

Duterte, who is known for his open China policy, similarly expressed his disapproval but added that the government was ready to repatriate Filipinos from the province of Wuhan.

In February, the country recorded its first death related to COVID-19. It was also the initial fatality to have occurred outside the epicenter.

Another Twitter user enumerated some of Duque and the health department’s response in terms of the pandemic.

#DuqueResign Anong kasalanan ni Duque?” he wrote and then proceeded to list some news reports such as Duque’s reluctance to a travel ban, the health department’s procurement of expensive equipment and giving false claims to the public.  

Duque in May was likewise questioned by Lacson about the need to buy testing equipment that was discovered to be costlier than what the private sector was using.

The health chief also claimed in April that the country has a “relatively low” infection rate compared to other countries but his special assistant, Beverly Ho, and Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire did not share the same view.

Another Twitter user said that Duque has been “ignoring the calls for COVID-19 mass testing” and supposedly neglecting the safety and protection of healthcare workers.

“Ano raw ba ang kasalanan ni Duque sabi nung matanda. Hello?” he wrote.

During the first few months of the pandemic, the health agency under Duque was accused of failing to secure sufficient personal protective equipment suits for its workers who are on the frontlines of the public health crisis.

A Twitter user also made a thread of news reports that detailed how the health chief and his department purportedly “jeopardizes the Filipino trust” with their words and actions.

The thread included reports that started from Duque’s refusal to impose a travel ban down to the sudden spike of COVID-19 recoveries that initially left the public in confusion.

The public has been asking Duque to step down as the chief public authority on health in light of his response to the pandemic.

Last April, 14 senators—including administration allies—sought for his resignation due to his “lack of competence, efficiency, and foresight bordering on negligence” in handling the public health crisis.

In June and July, the resignation calls grew more frequent on social media as critics denounce DOH’s response amid the continuous rise of cases, as well as Duque’s remarks on supposedly flattening the epidemic curve.

RELATED: #DuqueResign calls revived after claim on flattened curve

The calls similarly gained traction when Duque denounced his subordinates on national television after his agency failed to give cash assistance to infected and deceased frontliners in relation to COVID-19.

RELATED: #ResignDuque trends anew as DOH chief takes responsibility after blaming subordinates on TV

DOH was likewise accused of prioritizing various public officials in the COVID-19 testing despite being asymptomatic at a time when test kits were lacking.

Some Filipinos also 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.

During Duterte’s penultimate State of the Nation Address, Ben&Ben vocalist Paolo Benjamin Guico renewed the calls for Duque to resign from his post “for the sake of our tired health workers.”

RELATED: ‘Enough’: Ben&Ben vocalist renews call for Duque resignation on SONA 2020

Such incidents have prompted Duque’s critics to wonder “what’s wrong” with him, referencing the popular South Korean rom-com series “What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim?” and replacing it with the health chief’s name instead.

Some have resorted to editing the series’ poster with him and Duterte’s face instead.

The South Korean series tells the story of a narcissistic vice president of a major corporation who tries to bring back his longtime capable secretary after learning of her resignation.