El Duque de incompetencia

"It appears we are stuck with this man until the end of the Duterte administration."



The nobility that has been a prominent feature of European socio-political history has never been in this country. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is that for more than 400 years the Philippines was a mere colony of a European power. The second reason is that this country’s government is republican in character.

Up until now the closest that Filipinos have come to being in the midst of nobility has been the production and sale of El Conde de Guell cigars by the now-defunct Tabacalera (Compañia General de Tabacos de Filipinas). Condes (counts) form part of Spain’s nobility. But lately the people of this country have been seeing and observing a further embodiment of nobility. I’m referring to El Duque de Incompetencia, whose personal name is Francisco Duque III. It is wrong to call Francisco Duque III El Duque de Incompetencia because he is not a duke, but it is also right because he is a grossly incompetent Secretary of Health. Dr. Duque arguably is the most incompetent member of a second-rate Cabinet.

This country would very probably be faring better in its struggle against the COVID-19 virus if the DOH (Department of Health) had a strong leader, but surveys and public commentaries indicate that ability to lead is the last thing that Filipinos associate with Francisco Duque III. He has not been a source of inspiration to the DOH folk, and he inspires less with every day that passes.

From the standpoint of management science, Dr. Duque has been a disaster both as the head of the DOH and as ex-officio chairman of the nation’s universal health core institution, PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corporation). The Senate investigation into the suspected anomalies at Philhealth brought out the fact that Dr. Duque apparently thinks that the job of an ex-officio chairman is limited to presiding over meetings of the board of trustees; never mind that misconduct and mischief are happening all over the place. One of the lessons learned from the Philhealth experience has been that the Secretary of Health should not automatically be Philhealth’s chairman.

But it is as Secretary of Health that Dr. Duque excelled himself as an incompetent chief executive officer. The ongoing Senate hearings on the DOH’s dealings with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation have brought to light the transfer to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM), without any kind of documentation, of over P42 billion worth of DOH funds intended for acquisition of pandemic-related supplies. Under questioning by the senators Dr. Duque claimed that he was unaware of the undocumented transfer of DOH funds to the PS-DBM and of the fact that the DOH was procuring P11 billion worth of COVID-19-related supplies with a grossly undercapitalized and technically ineligible company. 

“I was not aware” and “I cannot remember the details” were the responses that emerged from Secretary Duque’s mouth in answer to the questions of Senator Richard Gordon and his Blue Ribbon Committee colleagues. 

Billions of pesos of a Cabinet department’s fund - P42 billion, to be exact - are transferred out of the department with neither approval nor documentation and the Secretary in question is unaware of it? A department does billions of pesos worth of business - P11 billion, to be exact - with a highly questionable corporation and the Secretary in question has no knowledge of it? Either the secretary in question, in this case Dr. Francisco Duque III, is highly incompetent or he is extremely negligent. Very bad, whichever way you look at it.

In Japan a public official in Dr. Duque’s position either would have resigned or would have committed seppuku by now. But the Secretary of Health will do neither of those things because he enjoys the apparently inexhaustible trust and confidence of President Rodrigo Duterte.

It appears that the Filipino people are stuck with Señor Francisco Duque III, Duque de Incompetencia, until the end of the Duterte administration.

Topics: Francisco Duque III , Rodrigo Duterte , COVID-19 , PhilHealth
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