MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman on Tuesday denied that he used influence to secure hospital treatment for COVID-19, as infections swamped facilities and forced other patients to wait in line for days.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said he “was in bad shape” when he was admitted to the Philippine General Hospital last week. Like other hospitals, PGH in Manila only admits COVID-19 patients if they have moderate to severe symptoms, he said.
“Hindi po pupuwede ang palakasan dito,” Roque said in a press briefing, when asked to assure the public that he did not use his status to get ahead of other COVID-19 patients.
(There is no use of influence here.)
Roque said he experienced COVID-19 symptoms last Monday, April 5. His doctors, who are all from the state-run PGH, believed that his “condition merited admission,” he said.
He said he knew his long-time doctors before entering government service, back when he was still a professor at the University of the Philippines, which operates PGH.
Roque said he started feeling better on Sunday after taking anti-viral remdesivir.
The Palace spokesman on Monday was also asked to explain how he got a hospital room, when other COVID-19 patients reportedly died while waiting for admission to healthcare facilities.
Roque had said, “With all due respect… I think that’s an un-Christian question.”
Manila Bishop Broderick Pabillo on Tuesday Roque's statement was “uncalled for.”
“Papaano naging 'un-Christian' 'yon? It was an innocent question,” he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
(How was that 'un-Christian,' it was an innocent question.)
“Ang public figures dapat maging transparent sila sa pagsagot sa mga tao. 'Yan ang problema. Pag nagtatanong, sa halip na sagutin ang tanong, ad hominem ang kanilang sagot, titirahin ang nagtatanong. Hindi naman tama 'yun.”
(Public figures must be transparent in answering questions. That's the problem. When people ask, instead of answering the question, they respond with ad hominem, they attack the person. That's not right.)
In his latest briefing, Roque said, “Kaya siya un-Christian, para bagang ‘pag ikaw ay nakakuha ng kuwarto sa panahon ngayon, e mayroon kang ginawa na nang-isa ka sa kapwa mo.”
(It us un-Christian because if you get a hospital room these days, it's as if you did something to get ahead of others.)
Roque said he has been instructed to look for a temporary treatment and monitoring facility where he could transfer beginning Wednesday. In the meantime, he said his doctors are just monitoring the effect of remdesivir on his heart.
Roque previously underwent a heart procedure, which prompted him to withdraw his 2019 Senate bid. He has also said he was obese and diabetic.
People with health risks are more prone to developing severe symptoms of COVID-19.
Roque first announced he tested positive for the coronavirus on March 15. He was found negative for the disease 10 days later.
It was unclear when he again contracted the virus, or whether he was suffering from further effects of his earlier illness.
The official was the fifth member of Duterte's Cabinet to contract the illness.