Physician Tony Leachon no longer adviser to COVID-19 task force

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 17 2020 02:29 PM | Updated as of Jun 17 2020 08:24 PM

Physician Tony Leachon. ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA (UPDATE)- Physician Tony Leachon said Wednesday he was no longer an adviser of the government's national pandemic task force, which leads the country's response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Leachon said he would no longer fulfill his role as adviser starting Wednesday.

"It’s with deepest regret that I announce that I am not anymore the Special Adviser of [the] National Adviser-COVID-19 effective today," he said in a tweet.

A former director of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, Leachon said he had "lots of good memories" but had to "move on."

"I have my full respect for Sec. Charlie Galvez and we will remain as good friends," he said, referring to COVID-19 policy chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez.

In a statement, Galvez said the task force has to let Leachon go because of his "preemptive releases of some information" prior to official announcement by the government.

"Dr. Leachon’s preemptive releases of some information prior to official announcement and adaption jeopardized the communication efforts of the IATF and NTF and caused unwarranted misunderstanding between two entities that should be working together. He has been cautioned but remained deaf to collegial advise. Constructive criticism among colleagues is most welcome to assure improvement but this should have been done internally to maintain unity of effort," Galvez said.

"Although transparency to the Filipino people is our primary objective, allowing the course of the decision-making process to take place is a must in order to derive the best decision that will serve the common good," he added.

Just two days before his departure as IATF adviser, Leachon said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III should invite more health experts from the private sector as the Philippines faces another COVID-19 epicenter.

As secretary of the Department of Health, Duque is also the chairperson of the inter-agency task force on emerging and infectious diseases (IATF).

Leachon said Duque must "reflect" and "work at the pleasure of the people," as he admitted that the health secretary's job was "herculean."

"I think he (Duque) needs to step up. He needs also to hear the voices of the people and reflect on some other plans and measures and perhaps a very brief 3-day team building and come up with a business plan for the next 3 months given that you have a new epicenter right now," Leachon said, referring to Cebu City, which the President placed anew under strict lockdown starting Tuesday. 

"We cannot fight too many battles considering we have finite resources and manpower," he added.

Duque has repeatedly drawn flak and resignation calls over his office's pandemic response. 

Earlier this month, President Rodrigo Duterte named Dr. Leopoldo “Bong” Vega as health undersecretary for special concerns just after Duque drew fresh criticism over the health department's slow action on distributing benefits for COVID-19-infected health workers.

The government's pandemic response strategy has fueled rumors of discord among top officials with at least 2 government officials leaving in the middle of the fight against COVID-19.