'Didn't mean to offend': DOH clarifies Duque’s controversial ‘blessing in disguise’ comment

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 24 2020 03:13 PM

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III leads the launch of the CCOVID-19 Bida Solusyon initiative in the City of Marikina on August 14, 2020. The event included a pledge by local government officials and members to support government’s program in overseeing COVID-19 efforts In the municipal level. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Department of Health on Monday defended Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who drew flak for saying that the COVID-19 pandemic was a “blessing in disguise.” 

Duque had said the pandemic forced the faster implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) law in the Philippines.

“Ang ibig sabihin ng ating Secretary of Health yung pandemic has triggered a more expeditious processing of what we need to implement for Universal Health Care law,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a virtual briefing.

(What our Secretary of Health meant is that the pandemic triggered a more expeditious processing of what we need to implement for Universal Health Care law.)

“He did not mean anything that he will offend anybody,” she added.

During a virtual event on Friday, Duque said that the pandemic also exposed the weaknesses of the health care system, which the government is now addressing.


But Vergeire said public health practitioners would understand more what Duque was talking about.

“Because we know that …ang nagpupush ng major reforms sa bawat bansa is a trigger. And our trigger now is a pandemic,” she said.

(Because we know that there is a trigger that pushes major reforms in each country. And our trigger now is a pandemic.)

Vergeire said that while the UHC law had an initial timeline, it had to be expedited because of the pandemic.

She said all Filipinos members are covered by universal health care and that they are working on benefit packages, even those that are non-essential or non-COVID-related.

“Pati capacity ng health system iniimprove natin which is all part of Universal Health Care law,” she said.

(Even the capacity of our health system is being improved, which is part of the Universal Health Care law.)

Duque, who no longer faces the media in the regular DOH briefings, has received flak for his comments in various public events. Some legislators and health groups have also called for his resignation because of supposed poor handling of the COVID-19 crisis.