Health reform advocate Tony Leachon "jeopardized" the government's messaging on the coronavirus pandemic with his "preemptive" social media posts, said Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr in a statement on Leachon's removal as his adviser in the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19.
"I maintain my respect for Dr Anthony Leachon and thank him for his services rendered to the NTF albeit very short," Galvez said on Wednesday evening, June 17.
Leachon tweeted earlier Wednesday that he was no longer special adviser to Galvez, the NTF's chief implementer.
"Dr Leachon's preemptive releases of some information prior to official announcement and [adoption] jeopardized the communication efforts of the IATF and NTF, and caused unwarranted misunderstanding between two entities that should be working together," Galvez added.
The IATF is the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases led by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. It is the government's lead policy-making body on the coronavirus pandemic.
Duque and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque "did not like" Leachon's recent Twitter and Facebook posts critical of the Department of Health's (DOH) handling of the pandemic. Leachon said Galvez told him about this, and he was "asked to resign."
Galvez later said Leachon "has been cautioned but remained deaf to collegial advise."
In his social media posts, Leachon said the DOH "has lost focus in everything – risk communication, priorities, data management, and execution of all plans."
In his official statement, Galvez said "constructive criticism" is welcome but it should be "done internally to maintain unity of effort."
Galvez, a former military chief, is also the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. As chief implementer of policies on the coronavirus pandemic, Galvez has overseen the procurement of personal protective equipment for healthcare frontliners, the construction of national quarantine facilities and swab testing centers, and the transport and quarantine of returning overseas Filipinos.
Leachon's criticism of the DOH came as the agency faced questions on apparent inconsistencies in its reporting of coronavirus case figures, backlogs in testing and releasing results, and lapses that allegedly led to the infection and even death of some medical frontliners.
"Our institutions are not perfect but I can assure you that the majority of those who serve are doing so with a lot of dedication even at the risk of their own lives. The problems we faced in the last few months and continue to confront are all new, where we learned as we go. Such is the case not only with the Philippines but the rest of the world. In time, we shall smoothen out our processes," Galvez said.
"To this end, I state my unequivocal support to the ranks of the professional men and women of the Department of Health and all our medical frontliners who continue to man their forts despite the losses in their ranks," he added. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.