MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Monday renewed his call for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to "resign or be replaced" after President Rodrigo Duterte defended the Cabinet member anew even as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases continue to surge in the country.
There are 14 senators and various medical groups who want Duque out of the Department of Health's helm, especially during the global pandemic, Lacson said in a statement.
"I couldn’t understand what 'amulet' or magic potion Duque has as far as the President is concerned," he said.
Duterte, in a late night address, said Duque should not be blamed for the spread of the virus in the Philippines because he "did not import COVID-19."
"No, sir. The COVID-19 importers are the virus-infected couple from Wuhan, China who spread the virus in Manila because your Secretary Duque miserably failed to do a simple contact tracing," Lacson said in a tweet.
"His failure to do a simple contact tracing on the co-passengers who took the same flight as the virus-infected couple... was his first major offense in a series of devastating blunders," he said.
He earlier tweted: "The health workers’ plea for a 2-week ECQ is simply telling DOH that we are not moving towards the right direction. If nothing is wrong with the rudder, maybe the ship captain needs immediate replacement."
Lacson and other senators have earlier blamed the DOH chief for the Philippines' failure to stockpile medical supply, COVID-19 test kits, and personal protective equipment for frontliners in the first quarter of 2020 when the number of coronavirus patients in the country was less than a hundred.
In April, 14 senators signed a resolution calling for Duque's resignation but the President shrugged off the petition and kept his Cabinet secretary.
As of August 2, the Philippines has breached the 100,000 mark with 103,185 COVID-19 cases.
Despite this, the President continues to defend Duque's leadership in the Health Department.
"All these being considered, it is not difficult to understand why we are in this mess," Lacson said.