Philippine health minister under investigation over COVID-19 response

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Francisco Duque

THE Philippines Health Minister, Francisco Duque, on Wednesday, faced an investigation over allegations of lapses and incompetencies in the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, the country’s ombudsman said.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires said other officials and employees of the Department of Health (DOH), would also be included in the investigation launched by his office, which could result in criminal or administrative charges.

“I directed the creation of two more investigating teams who will jointly investigate alleged irregularities and anomalies committed by DOH officials and employees, including Duque, in relation to the response of the DOH during this pandemic.

“Among the problems being looked into are the purchase of overpriced test kits, delayed procurement of personal protective equipment for health workers, and confusing and delayed reporting of deaths and confirmed cases,“ Martires said.

Martires said his office had also received complaints about inaction in the release of benefits and financial assistance for front-line medical workers who died or got infected with Covid-19.

Duque, however, said he and the department welcomed the investigations, adding, “We are ready, the papers and the documents are ready as well.”

“DOH officials will willingly cooperate with the authorities to ensure utmost transparency throughout the duration of the investigation and beyond.”

In April, some legislators and medical experts had called for Duque’s resignation, alleging failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight and inefficiency in the performance of his duty.

However, President Rodrigo Duterte rejected the calls and told the official to remain in their duty post.

The investigation was announced as one of the key health advisers to an inter-agency task force on coronavirus re-signed from his post, following differences with the health department.

Tony Leachon, a physician said he was pressured to quit after he criticised the health department in a series of social media posts.

“I left due to my differences with DOH policies, lack of sense of urgency, problems in COVID-19 data management, transparency in the communication process, and poor execution of plans.

“Forgive me, I think the lead agency has lost focus in everything – risk communication, priorities, data management, and execution of all plans,” he said.

The department on Wednesday reported 457 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, bringing the national tally to 27,238. It also reported 5 additional deaths to push the toll to 1,108. (dpa/NAN)

– June 17, 2020 @ 13:35 GMT |

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