Calls for the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III resurfaced anew as the health department is hounded by a new controversy.
This time, it involves a report the Commission on Audit released that flags the Department of Health’s “deficient” use of P67.3 billion COVID-19 funds.
Frustration over health chiefs’ pandemic policies is similar across the world. More than a year since the crisis began, at least 20 health secretaries have either resigned or been fired due to mismanagement, incompetence, corruption, favoring allies in COVID-19 vaccination, breaching protocols and several other reasons.
These health ministers have stepped down in the past year:
- Argentina – Gines Gonzalez Garcia
- Austria – Rudolf Anschober
- Brazil – Luiz Henrique Mandetta
- Brazil – Nelson Teich
- Brazil – Eduardo Pazuello
- Czech Republic – Adam Vojtěch
- Czech Republic – Roman Prymula
- Czech Republic – Jan Blatny
- Czech Republic – Petr Arenberger
- Ecuador – Rodolfo Farfan
- India – Harsh Vardhan
- Iraq – Hassan al-Tamimi
- Jordan – Nazir Obeidat
- New Zealand – David Clark
- Peru – Pilar Mazzetti
- România – Vlad Voiculescu
- United Kingdom – Matt Hancock
- United States of America – Alex Azar
- Slovakia – Marek Krajčí
- Scotland – Catherine Calderwood
Duque’s earliest decisions in response to the emerging virus threat as early as January 2020 have been heavily panned, such as his call to continue allowing the influx of all travelers from China except those from already locked down Hubei province.
There was also a noted shortage in the supply of test kits, personal protective equipment and face masks for health workers months into the lockdown, suggesting delayed procurement on the DOH’s part. This was after Duque had expressed confidence that there would be enough test kits.
Various groups similarly called for his resignation after the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation or Philhealth, where he worked as an ex-officio chairman, faced controversy over the use of its P15 billion fund.
At least 14 senators signed a petition in April last year calling for the resignation of Duque for his supposed “lack of competence, efficiency, and foresight bordering on negligence” in handling the pandemic in the country.
In June last year, Duque was again criticized for the delay in releasing cash assistance to medical workers who lost their lives to COVID-19.
Despite the slew of controversies against his health secretary, President Duterte has repeatedly expressed his trust in Duque.
He added that he would outrightly reject Duque’s resignation and insisted that the health chief has done nothing wrong.