MANILA — Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Friday urged Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to "just go" following an alleged "pattern of failures," most recently the stalled release of law-mandated benefits for health workers who died or were infected with the coronavirus disease.
Duque, in a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City on Thursday, said his staff at the health department had "no sense of urgency" over the matter.
Lacson said that while he did not and cannot question Duterte's prerogative to hire and fire Cabinet members, "it is kind of boring to see Sec. Duque pointing fingers at his subordinates and other people for his pattern of failures in running the DOH - and getting away with it each time."
"Many of us are starting to wonder what 'amulet' DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III has to deserve such a special treatment," the lawmaker said in a statement.
He also scored Duque for supposedly blaming "his inadequacies and neglect" on those who have not received compensation allowances "by claiming that some of them have 2 wives."
"Goodness gracious! Mr. Secretary, they are no longer around to defend or explain themselves," Lacson said.
"Just go," he added.
Duque said that while he "expressed disappointment" towards some of his subordinates, the release of the benefits for coronavirus-stricken health workers was "still my responsibility."
"I will make sure that we comply with the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, with proper documentation and identification of HCWs (health care workers)," he added.
Lacson and 13 other senators in April had urged Duque to step down over his supposed "failure of leadership" during the coronavirus crisis. Duterte rejected calls for his aide's resignation.
Lacson earlier flagged the health department's purchase of allegedly overpriced safety gear for COVID-19 frontliners and several government contracts that supposedly went to a firm owned by Duque's family.
Duterte said late last month that he was taking "full responsibility" over the safety gear that he ordered Duque to purchase.
Duque also said he had nothing to do with the contracts that went to his family's firm because he had divested from it back in 2006.