Robredo urges gov't officials to set aside feud amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 19) — Following senators' call for the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo said government officials must set aside their differences for the time being while the administration grapples with the rising COVID-19 cases.

In her radio show on Sunday, Robredo said President Rodrigo Duterte still has the final say whether Duque should step down from his post, days after 14 senators signed a resolution seeking the Health chief's resignation for his "failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, and inefficiency" in addressing the pandemic.

"Karapatan naman ng mga senador na magpahayag ng kanilang saloobin sa paraan ng resolusyon pero alalahanin natin na ano ba ang nature ng isang Cabinet secretary? Alter ego ng President," Robredo said. "Whether may resolution siya o wala, nasa desisyon talaga ng Pangulo kung tatanggalin siya o hindi."

[Translation: Senators have the right to express what they feel through that resolution but we have to remember what is the nature of a Cabinet secretary. He serves as the alter ego of the President. Whether there is a resolution or none, it is the President who will decide whether to remove him or not.]

"Hindi naman bawal magtuligsa pero sana iyong away, yun sana ang iwasan natin kasi nasa gyera tayo, magkakampi tayo dito lahat," she said.

[Translation: It's not wrong to criticize, but let us refrain from fighting because we are in the middle of a war. We should all be allies here.]

Robredo also noted that Duque should not just be the only one to take public criticisms on performance and leadership. All the other public officials must recognize their flaws and consider recommendations to better deal with the pandemic.

"Ang pinakamahalaga dito may recognition na maraming pagkukulang. Pero yung pagkukulang ba na yun kasalanan lang ba ng DOH o kasalanan ng ibang ahensya?" she said.

[Translation: What matters here is there is recognition of the things that could still be improved. But do these lapses fall under the DOH alone or should other agencies also take the blame?]

The national government has yet to complete the provision of the social amelioration program to low-income families, and other forms of cash subsidy to workers and others affected by the prolonged lockdown as mandated by the Bayanihan to Heal as One law.

It has been more than a month since the President put the entire Luzon under the enhanced community quarantine. There were recent calls to even extend the implementation for two more weeks after April 30 to allow more testing, contract tracing and patients' isolation that can prevent surge in cases.

Despite criticisms on Duque's supposed missteps and delayed actions on the pandemic, he still has the full support of the President and his other Cabinet members, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles previously said.

As of Sunday, the Philippines' COVID-19 cases have exceeded 6,000, with 516 recoveries and 397 deaths.