βœ‰ Letter to the Editor: Reply to Cito Beltran’s column [Philippine Star]

To Luisito ‘Cito’ Beltran: Please allow us to set the record straight on the misconceptions and insinuations in your column in The Philippine Star’s April 20 edition.

Reply to Cito Beltran’s Column

 

Dear Mr. Beltran,

Please allow us to set the record straight on the misconceptions and insinuations in your column in The Philippine Star’s April 20 edition (‘Et tu Brute‘).

The misconceptions in your column could have been avoided had you read the actual Senate resolution (Senate Resolution 362), where senators in the majority bloc – not just Senator Lacson – cited instances showing Secretary Duque’s failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight and inefficiency that led to poor planning, delayed response, lack of transparency and misguided and flip-flopping policies in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

As pointed out in the resolution, the Department of Health holds the overall technical authority on health as it is a national health policy maker and regulatory institution. As such, its Secretary’s opinions and recommendations on health matters carry great weight and authority.

Contrary to your insinuation that the issues cited against Secretary Duque are based on a single Senate hearing earlier this year, the Senate Resolution noted instances that under Secretary Duque, the DOH’s lack of coordination and foresight resulted in delays not only in contact tracing, but also in the release of information about the spike of new cases; as well as the failure to provide adequate Personal Protective Equipment for health care workers. These delays led to several health care workers testing positive for COVID-19.

Also, the Senate resolution noted that under Sec. Duque, the DOH has failed to expeditiously act in facilitating the accreditation of testing centers, unreasonably slowing the public health response of local government units – such as the Marikina Testing Center.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of several rapid antibody testing kits, after a long and unnecessary delay. But guidelines issued by Secretary Duque on March 31 indicated rapid antibody-based testing kits cannot be used for mass testing and that no public funds shall be used to pay for any COVID-19 rapid antibody-based test kit. Fortunately, the President countermanded the guidelines when he ordered Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the government’s national response against COVID-19, to immediately purchase two million rapid test kits.

On the other hand, despite the death toll among health professionals, Secretary Duque refused and failed to immediately invoke Section 12 of the Medical Act to allow graduates of medical schools to render medical services under special authorization. Again, this was resolved April 14 when IATF spokesperson Karlo Nograles announced they approved the deployment of 1,500 new medical graduates to public hospitals to help against COVID-19.

And contrary to the insinuation in your column that senators treated Sec. Duque as the “convenient” donkey to pin blame on, the issues cited in the Senate resolution stemmed from the complaints of his own people at the DOH, as well as government and private physicians and health workers. Patong-patong ang naging issues sa kanya.

Indeed, the COVID-19 threat is much more serious than a basketball game. But it does not take away the fact that in this fight against COVID-19, Secretary Duque is the equivalent of the team captain – the one who talks to his “teammates” and directs their actions on the proverbial court. And if the team captain has made quite a number of errors, should he not ask to be taken out lest he cause greater harm?

At any rate, Sec. Duque has acknowledged his shortcomings and promised to do better. Senator Lacson has said he trusts the Secretary will follow this up with proactive and positive actions to address the issues and concerns raised about his leadership. After all, actions will speak much louder and clearer than words.

We hope this clears the air on the matter. Thank you.

 

Joel Locsin
Media Relations Officer
Office of Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson