Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Tuesday passed the honor of being called a hero to health workers and economic frontliners even as he thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for praising his role in the country’s COVID-19 pandemic response.
“I appreciate wholeheartedly what the President said, but the health workers [and] economic frontliners, they are the ones we truly salute for their invaluable role in saving lives, regardless of whether it is a COVID case or not,” Duque said in an interview during the sidelines of the rollout of the Sputnik V vaccine at the Sta. Ana Hospital in Manila.
“I hope they remain inspired and strong given that they are the ones taking care of COVID-19 patients,” he said.
Duterte on Monday evening hailed Duque as the “hero” behind the government’s successful pandemic response despite getting flak for the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and the delays in the procurement of lifesaving vaccines.
“Compared with other countries – while this is not really the time to do comparisons – we are doing good in the fight against COVID and Secretary Duque is the hero here,” the President said.
Duque said he is thankful for Duterte’s continued support and confidence in his leadership, but stressed the accolade should be given to those serving in the frontlines.
“Let me reiterate what I have been saying since the beginning of the pandemic – the heroes are our medical and economic frontliners who brave the pandemic in order to show up at work and fulfill their essential duties,” he said.
Duque said anyone who observes proper health protocols and social-distancing measures to curb the spread of the pandemic can also be considered a hero.
“I believe that heroism is also in all of us…It is also the little things that can stop the spread of disease —the proper wearing of a mask and face shield may be uncomfortable at times, but enduring a little discomfort can save lives. By the little choices that we make, we either choose to be a spreader of the disease or a hero for others,” Duque said.
At the Senate, lawmakers, too, rejected the presidential compliment.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Grace Poe said the real heroes are the frontliners, including those who help provide what the government lacks, while Senator Francis Pangilinan said it was difficult to believe that Duque is a hero, much less that the government’s COVID-19 response has been excellent.
“That it was excellent and that Duque was a hero because of the good COVID response, I think they are the only ones who believe that,” Pangilinan said.
“With their hard work and resilience, we see people volunteering to make up for the inadequacies to the virus response. Even as we all have been humbled by this health crisis, let us not deny our frontliners the recognition that rightfully belongs to them,” Poe said.