Health Secretary Francisco Duque III will only be replaced once President Rodrigo Duterte loses his confidence in him, Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after a report quoted some sources as claiming that Duterte was looking for Duque’s replacement amid the calls for his resignation.
“I know nothing about that article. We all serve at the pleasure of the President,” Roque said.
“Any Cabinet member can be removed if the President loses his trust.”
Roque made his statement even as the association of private hospitals in the Philippines urged Duterte to replace Duque, who is also chairman of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation.
“Respectfully, our members feel that they have had enough of the promises of PhilHealth and the Department of Health headed by Secretary Francisco T. Duque III,” Rustico Jimenez, president of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc., said in a letter to Duterte dated May 25, 2020.
He said his group’s members were being given the run-around by PhilHealth each time they asked for compensation from the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism.
He said most of his group’s members were now financially drained but still waiting for the promised IRM. Willie Casas
Some lawmakers also renewed the calls for Duque’s resignation after they accused his department of overpricing PhilHealth’s COVID-19 testing packages.
“I’m confirming that the President is alarmed over the difference in the prices of testing kits,” Roque said.
“He wants an explanation and an investigation.”
In a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Philippines could lose more than P8.3 billion due to the alleged overpricing of PhilHealth’s testing package.
He questioned PhilHealth’s payment of PP8,150 per COVID-19 test, saying it was more than double the P4,000 being charged by the Philippine Red Cross per test.
Other sectors have also called for Duque’s resignation over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as his recent claim that the country was now experiencing the second wave of COVID-19 infections.
Duque later retracted his statement, saying the Philippines was still in its "first major wave of sustained transmission" after several Cabinet members disagreed with his initial remarks.
Last month, 14 senators filed a resolution asking Duque to resign for his “failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight and inefficiency” in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. With Willie Casas