Frontliners, not Duque alone, are heroes —senators


For some senators, the frontliners, and not Health Secretary Francisco Duque III alone, are the heroes in the country’s fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

The lawmakers were reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that the government's COVID-19 pandemic response was doing well compared to other countries, at the same time hailing Duque as a "hero."

"That's his opinion, to me, the frontliners are the heroes!” Senate Vicente Sotto III in a text message to reporters.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian aired the same sentiment, saying the government’s COVID-19 response was a team effort.

"Just to be fair, there were several heroes who effectively contributed to the government's response to COVID - these are Sec. [Carlito] Galvez, Sec. [Vince] Dizon and all the medical frontliners,” he said.

“This is a team effort. No one man can arrest a pandemic of this magnitude.”

Senator Grace Poe also noted that the “real” heroes are the courageous workers who risk their own lives for others.

“Even as we all have been humbled by this health crisis, let us not deny our frontliners the recognition that rightfully belongs to them,” she said in a statement.

“The way to give back is through efficient governance and social services that will trickle down to all, especially the vulnerable.”

In a tweet, Senator Panfilo Lacson played with words, saying the President probably meant Duque was “hilo” or dazed.

“He said that the Philippines is doing good in the fight against [COVID-19] and called his health secretary a “hero”. What he really meant was ‘hilo,’” Lacson, a critic of Duque, said.

Meanwhile, Senator Francis Pangilinan from the opposition said it is only the Executive Department that believes that the country’s COVID-19 response is "excellent" and that Duque is a "hero."

“‘Yung pagiging 'excellent' at pagiging 'hero’ ni Duque dahil sa good COVID response, palagay ko sila-sila na lang ang naniniwala du’n,” he said.

(Only the administration believes that our COVID response is 'good' and that Duque is a 'hero'.)

For her part, Senator Risa Hontiveros said Filipinos want accountability, not acknowledgement of government officials.


“Walang pinupuntahan ang pagtatakipan nila live on national television habang nadadagdagan ang mga nagugutom, nagkakasakit at namamatay dahil sa palpak nilang pagtugon sa COVID-19,” she said in a statement.

(Covering up each other live on national television won’t bring us somewhere as there are people who are getting hungry, getting sick, and dying because of their failed response to COVID-19.)

“Appointed ang isang health secretary, hindi siya pinili ng taumbayan, pero apektado ang buhay natin sa kaniyang kawalang-kakayahan,” she added.

(The Health secretary was appointed, the Filipino people did not choose him, but we are affected by his incompetency.)

Hontiveros recalled that Duque was the reason behind the late travel bans against China and the United Kingdom.

Under Duque’s watch, there are issues of overpriced PPEs and test kits, and delayed hazard pay for healthcare workers, she argued.

She renewed the call for a special audit on funds provided under Bayanihan 1 and 2 Laws, saying Duque must be accountable on any wastage that there has been on the limited resources of the government.

“Let’s celebrate the real heroes: the healthcare workers and the breadwinners who brave the threat of this pandemic and risk their lives in the service of their families and communities,” she said.  “If they really want to be like the heroes of the pandemic, then STEP UP.”

In his Talk to the Nation briefing on Monday night, Duterte said the country is "doing good in the fight" against COVID-19 compared to other countries, and that Duque, who he has repeatedly defended against critics, is "the hero here."

The country reported 7,255 new COVID-19 cases on Monday. Of the number, 2,402 were from Metro Manila; 1,419 were from Calabarzon; 839 are from Central Luzon; and 2,595 were from other regions across the country.

In April last year, several senators filed a resolution asking for the immediate resignation of Duque over his “his failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, and inefficiency in the performance of his mandate” as the country grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Malacañang said Duterte has decided that Duque should stay on at the helm of the DOH.

Despite the call of the senators, which included some of his allies, Duterte had defended Duque. — KBK/RSJ, GMA News