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Thursday, June 1, 2023

#EDITORIAL: Duque, it’s time to go.

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The captain must come down with the ship—a maxim often uttered in times of peril. It simply means that the weight on the shoulders of a captain is so great that he must necessarily come down with the ship he has failed to command and navigate. But in a case when the captain is the one dragging the whole ship down, it’s time to replace the captain before the ship sinks. 

At the onset of COVID-19 in the Philippines, after the first cases were recorded in February 2020, the government projected an image of confidence and premature jubilation in their capacity to contain the virus, but cases suddenly started tallying a hundred times over a couple of weeks.  A year into lockdown, it seems the government’s delusion hasn’t changed.

Just last month, it was reported that since the first case of a more infectious UK variant arrived in the Philippines in January 2021, the Department of Health brushed off concerns over community transmission of the UK variant despite reports that it started to appear in five different provinces in the country. In fact, it was only early this month that the DOH reportedly sought WHO’s help in confirming community transmission of COVID-19 variants.

We note that as of today, the Department of Health has yet to make a definitive confirmation of the community transmission of the new Covid-19 variants amid speculation that the new surge is driven by the new variants. Instead, the DOH has attributed the recent surge to public`s non-compliance with minimum health standards which Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque refuted in one of his virtual press briefings.

In one of his latest interviews, DOH Secretary Duque said “Hindi naman natin alam na papalo ng ganito kataas, so we have to make the adjustments.” (We didn’t really expect that [the cases] would reach this high, so we have to make the adjustments.)

Mas maraming nagkakahawaan. Ngayon na tumaas, o, para muna tayo. Ganu’n talaga, e, “ he added. (More are being infected. Now that cases rise, let’s stop first. It is what it is.)

Analysing his statements, we are utterly perplexed by Secretary Duque’s own confusion over the cause of the recent and unprecedented spike of transmission of COVID-19 in the country. We are disappointed over Secretary Duque’s damning admission that the government- a year into the pandemic- did not expect this level of surge of Covid-19 cases.

We are reminded that the Duque who made this damning admission is the same Duque who failed to deliver TEN MILLION DOSES of the Pfizer Vaccine just because he failed to submit a single document – a single document versus ten million doses of the vaccine that could’ve potentially avoided the current spike we have.

The Duque who failed to deliver a document for 10 million vaccines is the same Duque who has failed to promptly deliver hazard pay, basic salary, and PPEs to frontline workers.  

The Duque who failed to protect the medical frontliners is the same Duque who walked around with the media while distributing face masks and face shields – a great deal of time for publicity stunts while the country just reported the highest spike of daily Covid-19 cases, and while his colleagues in the medical profession are risking their lives to combat the virus.

The Duque who fails to implement effective and efficient policies to curb the virus, is the same Duque who clings onto his seat because he “serves at the pleasure of the president”.

If his failure of leadership at Department of Health continues, expect our country’s healthcare system to be overwhelmed soon as the cases start to tally around 10,000 or more daily new cases by April.  

In all fairness to Secretary Duque, we recognize that for the past couple of months, the Department of Health has done a barely passable job of plateauing the epidemic curve by reporting an average of 2000 new cases daily. In fact, there was an air of optimism as we approached 2021 and after the country evaded the post-holiday surge in January. However, the Department of Health’s dismissiveness of the threat of the new variant coupled with the IATF’s decision to further re-open the economy despite the unavailability of vaccines for mass vaccination, and the government’s perpetual inability to conduct an effective and massive contact tracing and isolation strategy have all contributed to the clusterfuck that we are currently in.

Secretary Duque should have relinquished his position while the Covid-19 situation was still at a relatively better position than it is today. A year into the pandemic, we believe that he has already paid his due. Just like President Duterte who will step down from power slightly over a year from now, Duque has already exhausted himself as Secretary of the Department of Health. As we brace up to face the challenges of the new variants, it is now time for him to pass on the responsibility to a new leadership in the Department of Health. Duque, it is time to go. #DuqueResign. 

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