Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III still has the trust and confidence of President Rodrigo Duterte despite the scolding he got from senators over the apparent lack of leadership in dealing with the novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD) threat in the country.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles gave the assurance after opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan, in a Senate hearing, criticized Duque for alleged ignorance of details about the spread of the disease, particularly on the number of tourists from Wuhan City in Hubei province, China who were subjects of contact tracing.

Nograles called Pangilinan’s remark an “unfair allegation,” saying a lapse that could easily be rectified did not mean that the DOH’s effort to prevent the further spread of the disease was a total failure.

The Cabinet official said Duque has given his subordinates two days to complete the contact tracing of the flight co-passengers of the Chinese couple who were found infected with the 2019-nCoV.

“Maybe there are lapses but that will be rectified.”

“I think that’s a very unfair allegation. Maybe there are lapses but that will be rectified. In fact, Secretary Duque already said that within two days, 100 percent na ‘yung contact tracing (contact tracing would be 100 percent completed),” he said in a media interview in Malacañang.

Nograles said the public should also “look at the bigger picture” by acknowledging the agency’s effort to ensure the safety and health of all Filipinos against the deadly virus.

He also lamented that the public was “pounding on the weakness” in contact tracing.

“You should look at their different aspects in terms of the management of the situation. There are several other aspects the quarantine, health care, the testing, the protocols, coordination of different agencies, coordination with WHO (World Health Organization),” Nograles said.

He said the best way to handle the situation was to “move forward” as it was not the only aspect that required immediate attention.

“Let’s not take away all of the other efforts that the DOH family is doing.”

“Let’s not take away all of the other efforts that the DOH family is doing. Let’s not take that away from them. Mahirap ang trabaho na ginagawa ng mga health workers natin (The job of our health workers is difficult),” Nograles said.

“There was a lapse, it was admitted, and it will be rectified and we hope the public will continue to support and not constantly look at just one lapse and say failure na lahat (everything is a failure). I think given the circumstances, our health workers have done a pretty good job,” he added.

Following calls for Duque’s resignation, Nograles said it was improper for the DOH chief to step down at a time when he is needed the most.

He said the President did not express disappointment over Duque during the 46th Cabinet meeting even after he was chided during the Senate hearing earlier that day.

“The President still has his trust and confidence kay (on) Secretary Duque and at this point in time na umaarangkada naman at ginagawa naman ang DOH lahat (that the DOH is doing everything it can), I think it’s not the call of the time to do something as drastic as that,” Nograles said. 

“We have utmost trust and confidence in Secretary Duque that he can do more and perform more. With all of the circumstances, he’s hands-on with everything, he’s done his job so far.”


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