The issue of “delicadeza” or upholding one’s sense of propriety was brought to light following the irrevocable resignation of Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong as the country’s contact tracing czar.
The government official tendered his resignation on Friday after drawing flak for attending a celebrity birthday party where guests flouted minimum health protocols amid a prevailing coronavirus pandemic.
In his letter addressed to COVID-19 response chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. reported by ABS-CBN, Magalong said that he was leaving his position “to hold myself accountable and do what is necessary to rectify this misstep.”
“It pains me to see my family, and my constituents, in anguish over this but I am committed [to] hold myself accountable and do what is necessary to rectify this misstep,” he said.
Magalong added that he is “ready and willing” to cooperate should an investigation be conducted by the National Task Force Against COVID-19 or the Department of Interior and Local Government.
He admitted that there were “several lapses in the protocol” on the party held at the city of his jurisdiction and said that he “should have done an immediate spot correction of the errors” that he witnessed.
“Much as I have given my best to discharge my duties for the Task Force, this incident has been a reminder that a higher standard is always expected of me,” Magalong said.
The Palace rejected his resignation but Magalong stressed that it is “irrevocable” which means it cannot be revoked or taken back.
“One of the highlights of public service is good governance. Tingnan natin ‘yung accountability ng isang ranking official na dapat siya mismo mag-lead ng pagpapatupad ng tama. During that particular moment, mukhang may kakulangan ako so it’s all about accountability,” he said in an interview.
“Di ba dapat as a member of the NTF, kami dapat nagpapatupad niyan. Kami dapat ang gumagawa ng tama. Leadership by example. Kung ‘di namin kaya ipatupad gaya ng nangyari noong insidente, better na lang siguro na mag-resign na ako because it’s all about accountability,” Magalong added.
Dr. Tony Leachon, former special adviser to NTF who also resigned due to having different views with the health department, lauded Magalong’s resignation and called him a “man of principles.”
“He has honor and good moral values. He demands accountability from others and from himself. It’s tough. The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same,” Leachon tweeted.
Galvez, on the other hand, said that the latter’s resignation is a huge loss to the coronavirus task force.
“Napasakit sa amin nung pinasa niya ‘yung kanyang resignation paper pero hindi po namin matatanggap dahil napakalaki ng ginawa ni Mayor Magalong sa amin,” he said in a statement.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, who acts as the spokesperson of the health department, said that the Department of Health “believes” Magalong should remain in his position as contact tracing czar.
“He has helped the contact tracing efforts of the country a lot…
Sa Bontoc and buong CAR siya nagpatakbo ng contact tracing para sa bagong variant,” she said in a briefing.
Magalong’s irrevocable resignation was welcomed by some Filipinos who found it laudable amid the controversy while others recalled another government official who has been on the receiving end of resignation calls since last year.
“Mayor Magalong irrevocably resigned as Contact Tracing Czar because of his one time, big time mistake. Kumusta naman ‘yung secretary ng kalusugan diyan, na may many times, big-time mistakes, talaga bang ganoon na kakapal ang balat niya sa mukha at wala na siyang kahihiyan?” a Twitter user said.
“Sana all tulad ni Mayor Magalong. May ‘delicadeza’ mag-resign ‘pag may nagawang kapalpakan against the protocol. ‘Di tulad ni Duque na ang kunat ng mukha. Kapit (lizard emoji),” another online user wrote.
“Compared to #Duque #Sinas, Magalong has the decency to quit for his failing,” a different Twitter user commented.
“So kailan ang resignation ni Sinas, ni Roque etc? Ay, oo nga, delicadesa isn’t a common trait in the Duterte regime. (Or else, why is Aguirre back in service?),” veteran journalist Inday Espina-Varona tweeted in response to Magalong’s resignation.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who also serves as chair of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, has been regularly called to resign from his position by Filipinos online due to his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the start of 2020, the health chief 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 at that time.
In February, the Philippines recorded its first death related to COVID-19. It was also the initial fatality to have occurred outside the epicenter.
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.
At least 14 senators—including administration allies—also sought for his resignation due to his “lack of competence, efficiency, and foresight bordering on negligence” in handling the public health crisis.
The resignation calls, likewise gained traction when Duque denounced his subordinates on national television after his agency failed to give cash assistance to COVID-19-infected and deceased frontliners.