Vergeire: ‘We still support our Secretary’ despite bashing, criticism

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 02 2020 11:31 AM

MANILA — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III still has the full support of his staff at the Department of Health (DOH) despite groups calling for his resignation, its spokesperson said Thursday, as the COVID-19 pandemic persisted in the country.

“You all know that a lot of criticism and a lot of bashing is being thrown at DOH right now. Kami basta we still support our secretary,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters on Thursday morning.

She said this amid rumors that President Rodrigo Duterte was just waiting for Duque’s resignation over his alleged poor performance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vergeire said they have not heard about this yet.

“Basta kami sa Department of Health, together with the Secretary, tuloy-tuloy lang ang trabaho namin,” she said.

(We at the Department of Health, together with the Secretary, will just continue to work.)

Duterte earlier this week defended Duque amid resignation calls, saying Duque has been working. In April, he rejected senators' demand for the health chief to resign. 

Vergeire said it is crucial for the DOH to have a leader “especially in times of emergencies.”

“We still support our secretary, he still provides us with that direction and we are all working hard because he gives us that enlightenment and guidance,” she said.

“Sa ngayon we are just working very hard para ma-attain natin ang objectives natin,” the health official added.

(For now, we are just working very hard to attain our objectives.)

Duque has drawn flak for various issues, including the alleged procurement of overpriced medical equipment and delays in the distribution of benefits for health workers who had died of the coronavirus or fallen severely ill. 

Earlier this month, Vergeire admitted that the ongoing investigation of the Office of the Ombudsman has affected their morale, especially since the DOH has been facing one health crisis after the other. 

At one point, Duterte appointed a Davao hospital director as DOH undersecretary to help coordinate COVID-19 efforts despite the fact that Duque is already part of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF). 

Asked if he was appointed there to eventually replace Duque, Usec. Leopoldo Vega merely said he was just preparing for his new post. 

Vergeire told reporters on Wednesday that Vega has been assigned as Duque's chief of staff.