Riveting times indeed – and during the catastrophic coronavirus pandemic yet.
Last week, we heard the outburst of Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, the reaction of health workers, and this week the apology of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to the health sector, which had been on the frontlines and who demanded Roque’s resignation.
–Dr. Maricar Limpin was shocked and felt insulted when she got a scolding from Roque during a September 7 pandemic task force meeting, seen by many netizens on social media platforms.
Limpin, president of the Philippine College of Physicians, which describes itself as an umbrella organization with over 9,000 members nationwide, is also a convenor of the Healthcare Professional Alliance Against COVID-19.
“As a government official, a spokesperson at that, I don’t expect him to do scold me when all that I’m trying to do is to help alleviate the government, alleviate the plight of the healthcare system,” Limpin told Rappler on September 10.
Limpin said Roque should be removed from his post after berating health experts who were appealing to the national government not to ease quarantine restrictions amid the COVID-19 surge in Metro Manila.
–Roque, visibly beside himself, lashed out at Limpin during the meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Tuesday when she emotionally pleaded to the government to impose a hard lockdown in Metro Manila because hospitals were overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.
–In the videos that emerged soon after, President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman could be heard saying, “This group, they (sic) have never said anything good about government response.”
One netizen commented: “Look at those (Roque’s) eyes — they’re full of arrogance, ego, and anger. Harry Roque, don’t you dare talk to these underpaid health workers who are risking their lives and their loved ones’ just to cover up the incompetency of this administration with regard to COVID-19-response.”
–Filipinos – medical experts and netizens – online quickly shared their sentiments as they defended the medical workers’ plight and call for better government support amid the alarming number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
–Some broadsheets also screamed in their editorials their anger and disapproval of Roque’s behavior, graphic in the 17-second clip as he addressed the president of the Philippine College of Physicians after it surfaced online.
An infuriated Roque, wagging his finger, was shouting in the video: “We employ the ‘entire government approach’ thinking about economic ramifications, thinking about the people who will go hungry. It does not mean that we care any less.”
–On Monday, Roque said the unidentified person who leaked a video of his outburst at a group of doctors could face charges for supposedly revealing government secrets and violating the data privacy law.
“I think the person is liable, also for revealing public secrets. But I will let the IATF decide on it as the matter is being discussed by the body,” said Roque, who is also the spokesman of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, in a Palace press briefing.
He said it is up to the IATF to file possible charges against the person.
Many in the medical community have demanded that Roque apologize, while others said he should resign for his disrespectful outburst.
–On Monday, Dr. Antonio Dans, one of the doctors at the receiving end of Roque’s harangue, said health workers would not be deterred from serving the public, despite Roque’s outburst.
“We will not be intimidated by Secretary Roque. We will do what’s necessary. We will continue helping the public,” said Dans, convener of the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19.
–On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año advised government officials to remain “cool” during meetings after Roque was seen in a leaked video berating a group of doctors during a virtual meeting last week.
In a television interview with CNN Philippines, Año also apologized to the health sector for the “unfortunate event that never should have happened,” adding “Let’s be open to all ideas and in a professional manner.”
Roque eventually apologized over his outburst, saying he got “emotional” but refused to comment on Año’s remark, saying “people are entitled to their opinions, that is how democracy works.”
“Anyone can say anything and everything. Of course, we will respect whatever people say, in the same way, we also want respect for our opinions,” Roque added.
The days ahead are worth our eye. (ai/mtvn)