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Duterte to Duque on ‘waves’: Don’t be so touchy

President Rodrigo Duterte advised Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to learn to brush off criticisms and not to be too touchy on issues after getting flak for his statement that the Philippines is now experiencing a "second wave" of the coronavirus infection.

In a televised briefing late Monday, Duterte raised the matter with Duque, seeming interested himself to know the explanation among the different waves of COVID-19.

"Ano ba talaga ito -- are we on the second, third, fourth or fifth wave, or no wave at all?" the president said.

Duque replied with the explanation he earlier gave to the public, reiterating that hs "second wave" pronouncement was based on the statement of nte epidemiologist, Dr. John Wong, whom he said considered as "minor wave" the first three COVID-19 cases in the country.

"Then nagkaroon ng lull for a month in February, then March, nagkaroon na ng reported cases," he said.

Duterte told Duque, who was in the meeting, "not to be too touchy on issues because there will always be pros and cons."

"Pakinggan lang natin because this is a democracy.  But in democracy, there are issues and attacks . . .I know you are hard-pressed and I know your situation," Duterte said.

"You just tell us if that the one in your, the grey matter between your ears.  Ayaw niyong maniwala sa akin, basta ito ang sa akin.  Maybe we should adopt this kind of attitude.  So be it.  If I committed a wrong, as long as there is no malice there . . ." he added.

The Health chief's statement that the Philippines is already experiencing the second wave of infection generated criticisms from lawmakers and various groups, who accused him of sowing panic and confusion.  It also triggered fresh calls for his resignation.

The Department of Health later on apologized for the statement.

Duque has also been on the receiving end of questions about the alleged overpriced procurement by the DOH of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies. 

Several lawmakers are considering launching an inquiry into the matter.

On Monday, the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, Inc. (PHAPi) also  urged Duterte to fire Duque from the DOH and as chairperson of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

PHAPi President Rustico Jimenez appealed for Duterte to replace Duque with “someone who can deliver the goods better in addressing the health concerns of the country” amid the issues hounding the DOH’s coronavirus response and the COVID-19 testing packages of PhilHealth. —LDF, GMA News