Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is in hot water. Again.
This time, he is being questioned over the very recent purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) long demanded by health workers in the forefront of the country’s fight against the local spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Duque has long been in the frontliners’ crosshairs for failing them in this fight even early on.
He did not seem ready to face the new coronavirus. He had failed to anticipate the enormity of this battle and sacrificed the doctors, nurses and hospital aides before the gods of pestilence and doom.
The Health chief had failed the people for not preparing early enough to mitigate the virus’ early impact. He is still failing them now.
He had failed President Rodrigo Duterte for his assurances that the COVID-19 social and economic impact would reach this far or would even go further than he had anticipated.
Now, Duque seemed to have stopped short of projecting himself as the savior of the people with his announcement of the government’s purchase of a million PPE.
That purchase came weeks late, though. The numbers have spiked, deaths had come aplenty.
Some 15 doctors have died already. Four of them perished yesterday.
But the medical field and stakeholders are up in arms over these deaths. They need not sacrifice their lives in the battle against the new coronavirus.
All they needed was to fight the war in proper gear. They were denied by the Department of Health (DoH).
The Health agency had received PPE donations early in the detection of the COVID-19 spread. It was not wanting in donors. Only that Duque had given them a hard time.
He required letters from them. Duque dictated on them.
The official had wanted all donations to pass through the DoH. But it did not have the capability to distribute them efficiently and effectively.
There would not have been deaths among our doctors had they received these PPE early into the fight.
Now, Duque has announced his purchase of one million PPE to the tune of P1.8 billion. It should have been welcomed by the people, especially at these times when they are needed.
But while there is a crisis, Duque is being accused of spending more than he should in buying these PPE.
Sen. Grace Poe has her eyes on the DoH chief. She said each PPE should not have set back government P1,800 per. She said a PPE should not have cost more than P1,000 each.
She pointed out that what could have been saved from this purchase could have bought more PPE and saved more lives among frontliners.
“Let us not forget the need for the judicious use of fund releases,” Poe said, reminding government officials to spend public funds wisely and properly.
Duque has no answer to this question yet, like it took him days to respond to earlier accusations of graft and corruption filed against him before this COVID-19 issue erupted.
But for sure he has to duke it out with people to save his neck when all of this is over.