MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte's televised weekly speeches were edited to remove repeated curses against a former government adviser who raised concern on the country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Malacañang said on Monday.
Dr. Tony Leachon earlier asked, "Isn't it worrisome that the government is still prioritizing the vaccines for which there are not enough safety and efficacy data?" This is in relation to the Philippines' bid for 25 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine from China's Sinovac Biotech.
Asked to react to this, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said, "Tatapatin ko na si Dr. Leachon: na-edit lang po sa mga Talk to the People, pero ang daming beses na po kayong namura ng Presidente."
(I will be honest with Dr. Leachon, the Talk to the People was just edited, but the President has cursed you many times.)
It is not immediately clear how many of the President's speeches were edited to take out the remarks.
"Ang sabi niya (Duterte), kung ano-anong sinasabi mo, iyon pala nagnanais ka lang ng posisyon sa gobyerno. Next time po murahin kayo ni Presidente, I will insist it will be shown to the people," Roque said in an online press briefing.
(He said you are saying various things, yet you just want a government post. Next time that the President curses you, I will insist that it be shown to the peopl.)
"Baka akalain n'yo natutuwa ang Presidente sa inyo--Hindi po," he said.
(Perhaps you think that the President is happy with you--he's not.)
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, who was at the briefing, said Leachon was difficult to work with. "May sariling mundo (he has his own world)," said the official.
Leachon was a former adviser of the Inter-Agency Task Force against COVID-19. He said he was fired from this post after he tweeted on June 13 that the health department "lost focus" in terms of pandemic priorities and data management.
Leachon said he only raised a red flag on the efficacy and safety of certain vaccines "so we can procure the right vaccine for our country."
He said that while he once dreamt of serving the government, he now had "no future ambitions to be a public official."
"It’s painful to be accused of something which is baseless and untrue. I have been an independent health reform advocate for many years. I have the highest respect for our President and the government," he said in a statement.
"I’d like to spend my sunset years with the family, closest friends, and doing advocacy work," he added.