MANILA – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III still serves at the pleasure of President Rodrigo Duterte, Malacañang said Monday following a senator’s call to replace the health chief for the government’s missed opportunity to secure Pfizer’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine by January.
In a press briefing from Davao City, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after Senator Manny Pacquiao urged Duterte to replace Duque to “ease the suffering of our countrymen”.
“Well, all members of the Cabinet serve at the pleasure of the President. Sa ngayon po, patuloy pa rin ang pagtiwala ni Presidente kay Secretary Duque. Ang sabi lang niya, sagutin ang mga paratang ni Secretary [Teodoro] Locsin (At present, the President still trusts Secretary Duque. He only asked him to answer the allegations of Secretary Locsin),” Roque said.
Pacquiao earlier asked Duque to voluntarily resign from his post following reports that he allegedly “dropped the ball” on the Pfizer deal with the Philippine government.
He said he has nothing against Duque, but noted that the country needed to have the vaccines.
Last April, he joined 13 other senators in calling for Duque’s resignation through a resolution due to the latter’s alleged inefficient response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last Thursday, Roque said the President saw “no major lapse” in the country’s deal with Pfizer on the purchase of vaccines.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., in a tweet, earlier said someone had “dropped the ball” in negotiations with Pfizer on the delivery of the Pfizer vaccines.
Locsin explained that he and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez had arranged for the delivery of vaccines with help of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as early as July.
Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson later blamed Duque for failing to prepare the confidentiality disclosure agreement for the acquisition of vaccines.
Duque, however, denied that he did not immediately prepare the necessary documents for the deal.
Since then, Roque said Duterte had asked Duque to answer Locsin’s allegations.
“Hindi po namin alam kung ano talaga yung pinag-usapan ni Secretary Locsin, Ambassador Romualdez, at Secretary Pompeo. Kaya nga po minabuti ni Presidente na advisan si (We don’t know what Secretary Locsin, Ambassador Romualdez, and Secretary Pompeo talked about. That’s why the President advised) Secretary Duque, answer the allegations of Secretary Locsin in the same manner that he defended himself in yesterday’s meeting,” he said.
Roque also assured that the Philippines could still get hold of Pfizer’s vaccine between the second and third quarter of 2021. (PNA)