Task force had to ‘let go’ of Leachon over ‘preemptive’ info releases: Galvez

Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 17 2020 09:12 PM

MANILA - The National Task Force (NTF) on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) had to let go of physician Dr. Anthony Leachon as an adviser due to his "preemptive" releases of information, the body's chief implementer said Wednesday. 

"Dr. Leachon’s preemptive releases of some information prior to official announcement and adoption jeopardized the communication efforts of the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) and NTF and caused unwarranted misunderstanding between two entities that should be working together," said NTF chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.

"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," he said in a statement. 

He did not specify what particular information Leachon had leaked. He said that while the body aims for transparency, decision-making within the task force should be allowed to take place "to derive the best decision that will serve the common good."

Leachon had announced earlier Wednesday he was no longer adviser to the task force and that he had to "move on." He expressed "full respect" for Galvez and said they "will remain as good friends."

Galvez, in his statement, said "I maintain my respects" for Leachon and thanked him for his services to the NTF. 

He said the task force is doing its best to solve problems it has faced in the past in working towards containing the virus.

"Our institutions are not perfect but I can assure you that the majority of those who serve are doing so with a lot of dedication even at the risk of their own lives. The problems we faced in the last few months and continue to confront are all new where we learned as we go. Such is the case not only with the Philippines but the rest of the world. In time, we shall smoothen out our processes," he said.

He likewise expressed his support for the Department of Health as well as medical frontliners for their continued service amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DOH, led by Secretary Francisco Duque III, is facing an Ombudsman investigation for alleged "lapses" in responding to the virus outbreak. 

"To this end, I state my unequivocal support to the ranks of the professional men and women of the Department of Health and all our medical frontliners who continue to man their forts despite the losses in their ranks," Galvez, also presidential peace adviser, said.

"These times also call for compassion and understanding for each and everyone and where unity of effort should run complementary. We cannot afford to be divisive in this fight where coming together as one will make us stronger to face this global health issue," 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).

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