Senate to discuss its call for Duque to resign

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 17) — The senate majority will tackle their call for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to resign, despite his refusal to quit his post over his alleged incompetence in handling the COVID-19 crisis.

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III on Friday said the resolution urging Duque to step down will be discussed when the session resumes in May.

“Sec. Duque is a friend, but when almost two-thirds of the Senate, perhaps more, receive complaints from health workers, DoH employees, and those in the direct line of responses, I cannot not support Senate Resolution 362,” Senate President Tito Sotto said in a text message.

At least 14 senators from the 24-member chamber on Thursday signed the resolution seeking Duque's resignation for his "failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, and inefficiency" in the measures and actions carried out by the department he heads.

The senators said Duque's "poor planning, delayed response, lack of transparency, and misguided and flip-flopping policies and measures" in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic is endangering the lives of healthcare workers and all Filipinos.

Senator Ping Lacson said Duque will be invited to explain his side. He added other medical experts and healthcare frontliners will also be asked to speak out, so the lawmakers can craft a bill that can help the medical community.

“As a matter of course, a public hearing will be conducted after first reading and referral. Not only will it give Sec. Duque the opportunity to explain his side, it will also give all other resources persons in the medical community and whoever may be invited to shed light to further articulate their views with the end in view of passing relevant legislation on our part,” he said in a text message.

‘100 percent support’

Despite the resignation demands, Duque still has the full support of President Rodrigo Duterte and his co-Cabinet members.

“Lahat kami sa [All of us in the] Cabinet uttered our 100 percent support kay Secretary Duque,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said in a virtual briefing on Friday.

President Rodrigo Duterte has also rejected calls for Duque to resign, deciding to keep him in his post. Nograles believes Duque’s no-nonsense approach to the COVID-19 response is “what the President appreciates.”

Nograles, who also serves as the spokesperson for the COVID-19 task force, highlighted the contributions made by the embattled secretary in the national government’s response to the global health pandemic.

“All of the decisions that were made came out to be the right decisions. If we had not imposed a community quarantine immediately, if we had not done ‘yung travel restrictions immediately, if we had not done this, if we had not done that magkakatotoo ‘yung sinabi ng WHO na 70,000 tayo infected ng COVID-19 [If we had not done that, the projection of WHO that we will have 70,000 cases would have happened],” he said.

Senators criticized Duque's delayed action on mass testing and imposing a travel ban on countries with an alarming number of coronavirus cases.

Nograles said it is understandable if some mistakes are committed along the way because the country is responding to a new strain of coronavirus.

“In this battle magkakaroon ng missteps eh [there will be missteps], because it’s novel, it’s a new virus. The world does not even know how the virus operates, how it reacts, how it moves,” he stressed.

The Philippines has 5,660 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 362 deaths, and 435 recoveries.