Duterte consoles Duque: ‘Don’t be too touchy on issues’

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President Rodrigo Duterte holds a meeting with members of the IATF-EID in Malacañang on May 25, 2020. (ACE MORANDANTE/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 26) — Following the growing calls for Health secretary Francisco Duque III to leave his post, President Rodrigo Duterte advised the Health chief not to take to heart criticisms made against him.

Huwag ka masyadong touchy sa mga issues [Don’t be too touchy on issues], because always there will be pros and cons,” the President told Duque in an Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases meeting aired online late Monday night.

Pakinggan nalang natin [Let’s just listen to them] because this is a democracy,” he added.

Earlier, the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, Inc. wrote a recommendation to Duterte, asking him to replace Duque on account of delays in the release of the interim reimbursement mechanism, which stands as financial aid to hospitals hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

READ: Private hospitals group asks Duterte to replace Duque as health secretary

Several senators also signed a resolution in April seeking Duque's resignation for "failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, and inefficiency" in the measures and actions carried out by the department he heads.

But amid these calls, the Chief Executive showed no intention to let the Health secretary go.

Alam ko ikaw, you are hard-pressed [I know you are hard-pressed]. I know your situation,” Duterte told Duque. “You just tell us if that is the one that’s in your...the gray matter between your ears, e ‘di sabihin mo, ‘Ayaw ninyong maniwala, e ‘di bahala kayo, basta ito yung akin [just tell them, ‘If you don’t want to believe me, then that’s up to you.’]”

Duque has also received backlash for previously claiming that the country is already experiencing the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

He later on clarified this statement, saying the Philippines is still in the “first major wave of sustained community transmission.” Duque further explained that the first wave he earlier mentioned is only composed of the three imported cases recorded in January involving Chinese nationals, and was therefore only a very small one.

READ: DOH apologizes for confusion over 'second wave' remark