The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) has joined calls for the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III for allegedly failing to handle the pandemic effectively.
In a statement on Tuesday, August 17, the NCCP “denounce[d]” the Health department under Duque for the alleged “deficiencies” in the use of a 67.323-billion-peso fund for pandemic response.
The Commission on Audit (COA) earlier flagged the Health department’s usage of the fund intended for the government’s COVID-19 response last year.
“We laud the effort of the COA for their findings and for bringing it out in the open,” read the NCCP statement.
“To say that the Health Secretary is inept and incompetent is an understatement,” it added.
In its report, the COA said the deficiencies in the use of the fund had undermined the timely and efficient response for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Secretary Duque has been weighed and found wanting, he should heed the call for resignation. The Filipino people deserve better,” read the NCCP report.
The group also recalled how Duque in the past made light of the threat of COVID-19 and refused to call for a closure of the country’s borders even when various sectors were imploring on him to do so.
It also cited a separate audit report on a 95.15-million-peso worth of expired and near expired or unused medicines and medical supplies in the Health department.
“This is the nth time that Secretary Duque has shown his ham-fisted approach to this truly life and death situation,” read the NCCP statement.
“It is a sin when a government continues to withhold from people the much-needed help and support, especially in this time of a global health crisis,” added the group.
Healthcare workers earlier also called or the resignation of Duque.
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday he would reject any attempt at resignation by Duque.
“I know you want to resign, but you know that I will refuse you,” said the president in Filipino during a media briefing.
“You have attempted to resign twice before. I expect you to say something to me after this, that you’ll resign. I tell you, no. You did nothing wrong. Why will you resign?” the president addressed Duque.
Duterte has repeatedly rejected calls for the firing of Duque over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 15-billion-peso corruption allegation against medical state insurer PhilHealth.