MANILA, Philippines — A former adviser to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases on Thursday lauded the Office of the Ombudsman’s decision to investigate Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other officials for their response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“If it’s one of the most powerful agencies of the law that is criticizing you, this only concretizes what [I’ve] been saying that the Department of Health’s response to this crisis has been slow. Their data management is bad. Their execution of their plans is bad. This isn’t right and it is possible that they are liable for the death of many Filipinos because the data they are churning out is so late — and this data is so important,” Tony Leachon told ABS-CBN in Filipino.
Leachon further slammed the DOH for its poor management of COVID-19 data in the country, going as far as calling it “useless.”
He particularly criticized the department’s classification of fresh and late cases, saying this kind of reporting was not being done in any other country.
“[If you have around 7,000 cases which are backlogged, how will the [IATF] make a decision? Their old data cannot be used to determine quarantine intervention or any intervention because its not fresh data,” Leachon told ABS-CBN in a mix of Filipino and English.
Leachon on Wednesday announced that he would no longer serve as the adviser to Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the chief implementer of the national action plan against COVID-19.
He told CNN Philippines that he believes he was asked to resign, saying Duque and presidential spokesperson Harry Roque did not like the way he publicly expressed his comments on the lapses of the DOH.
“It’s as if the Department of Health is playing around but these are lives… for every wrong decision [the department] make[s], so many lives are lost,” Leachon said in Filipino.
Ombudsman Samuel Martires said he ordered the creation of two investigating teams to look into the following issues:
- Delayed procurement of [Personal] Protective Equipment and other medical gears for healthcare workers
- Alleged lapses and irregularities that led to death of health workers and rising deaths and infections among medical frontliners
- Inaction in the release and processing of compensation for healthcare workers who were severely ill with COVID-19 and who died
- Confusing and delayed reporting of COVID-19 deaths and confirmed cases
The health department on Wednesday said it welcomes the investigation.
“[Health] officials will willingly cooperate with the authorities to ensure utmost transparency throughout the duration of the investigation and beyond,” the department said in a statement.
However, the ombudsman said that his office started the probe prior to the March 15 lockdown, but investigators “were given a runaround by some DOH officials and personnel by referring us from one department or office to another.”
As of this writing, there are 27,238 cases of novel coronavirus and a death toll of 1,108 in the Philippines.