MANILA -- Health Secretary Francisco Duque III late Monday told President Rodrigo Duterte that the Philippines is still in the first wave of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) transmission.
"Mr. President, we're actually on the first major wave of sustained community transmission. 'Yun pong nabanggit ko na second wave, my assumption, my statement was based on the article that was published by Dr. John Wong," Duque told Duterte during an inter-agency task force meeting.
Duterte later reminded Duque not to be "touchy" about the issues at hand.
"Alam mo. 'Wag ka masyadong touchy sa issues. Because always there would be pro and cons. Pakinggan na lang natin because this is a democracy... Alam ko ikaw you are hard-pressed and I know your situation," the president said.
"You just tell us if that is the gray matter between your ears. Eh 'di sabihin mo kung ayaw ninyong maniwala bahala kayo. Basta ito ang akin ... maybe adopt that kind of attitude. So be it. If I committed a wrong, as long as there is no malice there," he added.
The health department earlier said that the Philippines is still in its first wave of COVID-19, contrary to Duque's first claim.
An organization of private hospitals on Monday urged Duterte to replace Duque with "someone who can deliver the goods better."
Duque, who was appointed health chief in 2017, had drawn flak over how his office handled the COVID-19 pandemic.
He previously served as health chief from June 2005 to January 2010 under then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He was also chairman of the Civil Service Commission during the Aquino administration. --with reports from Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News