Should DOH chief step down? Sotto says Duque should 'save' Duterte from 'any predicament'

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 19 2020 02:25 PM | Updated as of Jun 19 2020 04:44 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III should "save the President" from any difficult or embarrassing situation, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Friday. 

This, as the Health chief rejected calls to file a leave of absence while the Office of the Ombudsman is investigating alleged lapses in government's COVID-19 response.

Prior to the Ombudsman's investigation, Senators filed a resolution urging Duque to resign for his "failure in leadership" during the coronavirus crisis.

"I'm tired of giving comments re: Sec. Duque because it merely falls into deaf ears," Sotto told reporters. 

"It's his call. He should save the President from any predicament or responsibility in his tenure," he said.

Administration Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa aired a similar sentiment, noting the the DOH chief has repeatedly rejected calls for him to step down.

"Ayaw ko nang manawagan dahil ayaw man din niyang pagbigyan. Ayaw ko nang masnubbed again," he said.

(I don't want to make that call anymore because he's not inclined to heed our calls. I don't want to be snubbed again.)

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said he expects the DOH to commit gaffes while Duque remains in the agency's helm.

"Hindi na ako magtataka kung patuloy na palpak na patakbo ng kampaniya ng administrasyon laban sa COVID," Pangilinan said in a text message to reporters.

(I will not be surprised if the administration's campaign against COVID would continue to be a failure.)

"Lalo lang mababaon sa kapahamakan ang bansa at dagdag parusa sa mamamayan," he said.

(The country will be in deep danger, and the public will continue to be burdened.)

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian earlier said Duque should file a leave of absence to ensure that he would not influence the information that the Ombudsman would request from the agency.

"To make the investigation impartial, I think the best and the most appropriate thing to do is to take a leave of absence at the very least," Gatchalian said in an online press conference.

"You can influence the information that the Ombudsman will request from the agency [so] I think it is appropriate to take a leave," he said.

On Thursday, Ombudsman Samuel Martires criticized the DOH for not cooperating with investigators.

"I just hope this official will just cooperate with us. Shut up and just cooperate," he said.