MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte late Tuesday night defended Health Secretary Francisco Duque III anew amid criticism on the government's handling of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in the country.
In a streamed public address, the President said he would not have appointed Duque as head of the health department if he was incompetent.
"Nakita ko to si Secretary Duque in the many meeting we had. Nakita ko siyang nagtatrabaho. Nagtatrabaho 'yung tao," Duterte said.
He said no country was prepared to deal with the pandemic, which he claims comes once in a century.
"Hindi natin akalain in 2 days time after warning given by the WHO (World Health Organization), it is a virulent, fast-moving microbe and we were all advised to take precautions," he added.
The Office of the Ombudsman has launched in investigation on alleged lapses in the health department's response to the crisis.
Among those to be covered in the investigation are delays in the procurement of personal protective equipment and other medical gear for health workers; "alleged lapses and irregularities" that caused deaths among health workers; delays in the processing and release of benefits for medical workers who died or got severely ill due to COVID-19; and the "confusing and delayed reporting" of coronavirus cases and deaths.
To date, the Philippines has recorded 37,514 coronavirus cases, of whom 1,266 have died while 10,233 have recovered.