'Forgive and forget': COVID-19 task force adviser says Duque still best man for the job
File photo of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III
The STAR/Mong Pintolo
'Forgive and forget': COVID-19 task force adviser says Duque still best man for the job
Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - May 22, 2020 - 4:48pm

MANILA, Philippines — Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases adviser Tony Leachon on Friday said he still believes that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is the best man for the job.

Leachon urged Duque's critics to "forgive and forget", saying that no other leader could do a good job as the sitting Health secretary in a time of pandemic.

"Perhaps, what Secretary Duque needs is to enlist more people aside from his technical advisers because we need a lot of help. You need people who can give you divergent opinions," Leachon told ABS-CBN in a mix of Filipino and English. 

At a press briefing Wednesday, Duque said the country is experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 infections. Lawmakers questioned the possibility of a second wave when the curve has yet to be flattened due to insufficient testing.

On Thursday, the health secretary walked back his earlier remark, which drew massive criticism.

Lawmakers also called into question what they believe to be a pattern of overpricing in the Health department's purchase of COVID-19 equipment.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Thursday pointed out that extraction machines, testing kits and personal protective equipment were all being purchased by the government at around twice the cost as compared to the equipment being purchased by the private sector. 

This is not the first time that Duque came under fire for handling the health crisis brought about by the coronavirus disease in the Philippines.

In April, more than half of the members of the Senate called for the immediate resignation of Duque over policies that they said endangered and "continue to endanger" the Philippines, which is in the middle of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Among the lapses of Duque raised include his warning against imposing a flight ban between the Philippines and China, delayed contact tracing efforts, neglecting to alert the medical community and the public about COVID-19 patients admitted in local health facilities, information gaps, failing to supply frontline healthcare workers with personal protective equipment, and the slow accreditation of testing centers.

As of 4 p.m. Friday, the Philippines has tallied 13,597 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

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