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Opinion

Duque prescription

LOOKING ASKANCE - Atty. Joseph Gonzales - The Freeman

There has to come a point when an official should know he has failed. Unfortunately, that point is nowhere to be found in Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s egocentric reality.

Many instances have been raised about the repeated and documented failures to address this pandemic. From the very beginning, there was the fact that the Department of Health didn’t prepare for the pandemic by ordering test kits immediately, organizing testing labs the minute Wuhan went on lockdown, or closing our borders to travelers from mainland China.

Then, the continued failure to contact-trace, the launch of all these stupid apps and paper forms with absolutely no purpose except to signal “something” is being done (and to make loads of money for crony-suppliers), and the imposition of nonsensical guidelines (I’ve waxed profusely and profanely on face shields). Those failures should be laid on Duque’s doors.

Also, all that money borrowed and scraped supposedly for the health of the populace, specially marginalized sectors feeling the impact of the lockdowns. Whether in the form of the construction of more clinics and hospitals, the payment of salaries and bonuses (and even more bonuses!) to tired health workers, or the deployment of medicines (COVID-related or not!)

But no, your agency spent P1.66 billion for overpriced face masks (at more than 500% its suggested retail price) and hundreds of millions for those ineffectual face shields. Mr. Secretary, is this defensible? Are you going to continue defending it?

Mr. Secretary, despite the DOH trying to throw the Department of Budget under the bus, it seems that the P1.6B in 2020 funds is still with you. The Commission on Audit says you have P11.89B in “unobligated” funds. And P42B was transferred to other agencies! How can it be argued DOH doesn’t have enough funds?

And despite these billions, and despite the year DOH had to deploy the money, why are hospital beds are still limited, oxygen tanks still out of stock, and nurses resigning at how they are being treated?

And the secretary has the gall to feel sensitive and cry about criticisms thrown his way. If you’re going to be sensitive, Mr. Secretary, perhaps you should be sensitive about the plight of the Filipinos who expect you to work not just overtime, but triple time, to get them out of this mess.

If you’re not up to their (our) expectations, then you should bail. It’s not about whether you meet the president’s expectations. You should be more concerned about meeting our expectations. Our demands and needs, and keeping us happy. If we’re not satisfied, then you’re not doing a good job!

Yes, it’s a thankless task. Don’t expect balloons and marching bands. Not while deaths are happening left and right. You’re in a public post --government service wasn’t intended for that. If they come your way, that’s great. But if they don’t, don’t feel sorry for yourself. Feel sorry for us. Because that means, you’re not keeping us healthy. Which is your job, remember?

News flash - your job isn’t about making the president happy! It’s about watching out for our health. Providing us the means to become healthy. Procuring vaccines on time (which you already dropped the ball on). Getting everyone vaccinated (which you haven’t accomplished). And getting everyone their booster shots (another nightmare coming up).

Still not giving up? If you’re not up to these tasks, then give way. Throw in the towel. Resign. No shame in conceding your inability to fulfill your functions. There’s a consensus on that already, you know.

And that way, you might be able to avoid more deaths being pinned to your name. Wouldn’t that be a nice legacy?

FRANCISCO DUQUE III

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