By Irish Medalla

Cartoon by Joseph Idusora

President Rodrigo Duterte stated in a taped address last August 24 that he will not fire the Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III unless the chief 'voluntarily' resigns. Despite the controversy involving the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Department of Health (DOH), President Duterte still manages to continuously defend the said secretary. This, despite Secretary Duque’s glaring incompetence in being one of the leaders in the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic. 

Recently, state auditors found 'deficiencies' regarding the P67 billion funds allotted to last year 2020 for this COVID 19 pandemic. This finding is frustrating now that the country is struggling to curb fresh infections of the viral respiratory illness. This should be taken seriously by DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III for he is in the position and was given the power and responsibility in supervising these concerns inside the health department. 

In addition, President Duterte also added that he will still stand by Sec. Duque no matter what even if it would damage his position as president. It is dubious that our president maintained his trust in Secretary Duque despite this kind of delinquency which has some kind of corruption involved. From allegations of corruption in PhilHealth, delayed compensation for medical frontliners to inadequate pandemic response, Duque is a reflection of the government’s handling of the health crisis: it is incompetent. 

If President Duterte continues to tolerate these alleged irregularities in using the government's funds, then it will truly be difficult for us to cope up with this ongoing pandemic. It is saddening that the takes from the people are not being utilized properly. The P67-billion health funds could have helped many Filipinos in responding to this health crisis. Unfortunately, the DOH failed to do so. 

Amid the controversies, people no longer trust that Secretary Duque is still fit to be the chief of the DOH. If he still has delicadeza, he should step down from his post. But before doing so, he should first try to fix the mess he made and not just leave like nothing happened. He should clear his and the agency’s names in the congressional hearings that look into the issue. There are certainly other people who are more deserving in the position and also have the ability needed to lead and serve the Filipino people rightly. This, obviously, is not Secretary Duque so he should heed our call to resign now.