Duque stays: Duterte rejects senators' call for health chief to resign

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 16 2020 04:20 PM | Updated as of Apr 16 2020 05:10 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte confers with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III while holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Malacañan Palace on March 9, 2020. Presidential Photo

MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte will keep Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in his Cabinet, Malacañang said Thursday after senators called for the health chief's resignation.

At least 14 senators signed a resolution filed earlier Thursday calling for Duque's resignation due to “failure of leadership” in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said the President expects Duque to work "even harder" following the call.

"The President has made a decision for Health Secretary Duque to stay put," Medialdea said.

"Secretary Duque was made aware of the sentiments of the Senators and the President expects him to work even harder to set aside any doubts on his capacity and sincerity to serve the public during these difficult times," he added.

In a resolution, senators cited the health chief's "lack of foresight and inefficiency" as a ground for his removal from office.

Senators said several DOH policies led to the spread of COVID-19 in the country, eventually making the Philippines the Southeast Asian nation with the most number of coronavirus cases.

President Duterte simply "expressed his appreciation" for the senators' gesture in giving him the opportunity to evaluate the performance of Duque as health chief, Medialdea said.

Duque on Thursday, meanwhile, said he would respond to the senators' call in due time.

"I will continue to serve the country to the best of my abilities...We will answer these allegations in due time, but right now, we will continue to be in the trenches with our health care workers and frontliners," he said.