By Deighton Acuin and Archie Villaflores

PHOTO: The President News

President Rodrigo Duterte defended Health Secretary Francisco Duque anew as he advised to ignore the brickbats being thrown to the latter.

In his weekly Talk to the People, Duterte told Duque that critics were trying to paint him “black” or a corrupt one so they would appear as “white” or clean ones.

Duque was among the members of the Cabinet present in the meeting to discuss the status of government’s COVID-19 vaccine procurement.

Duque was heavily criticized over his alleged poor leadership on government’s coronavirus outbreak response.

“Secretary Duque naman, eh palagi nilang inaaway pero tama naman. Pero ganoon siguro ‘yang public office, Secretary,” Duterte said.

“Do not be — ma-ano ka sa — you get discouraged from the brickbats thrown against you,” Duterte added.

The President also took a swipe at critics allegedly attempting to smear the health chief’s reputation.

“All of you there have been painting Duque black because you appear — you want to appear white there,” he said.

“If you want to appear white, then paint your opponent black and then you are always white. Ganoon ‘yan,” he added. The President previously vouched for the integrity of Duque, saying he cannot find a reason to suspend or dismiss him.

Some groups earlier urged for Duque’s ouster due to alleged mishandling of coronavirus response as well as the irregularities hounding the country’s health insurer, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

Duterte, in the same address, appealed to the public not to fall for critics throwing intrigues amid the vaccine purchase.

He also said the public should express their trust in government officials, as he vowed the vaccination program will be conducted by the book.

“Next time, do not be so gullible and — basta maniwala na lang kayo, talk about corruption, left and right. I mean, it starts with a big bang and it ends with a whimper,” Duterte said. 

“Just keep faith with us. At the end of the day, you will see that everything has been done in accordance with the rule of law,” the President added.

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