COVID-19 task force adviser says he was eased out over critical tweet

Health reform advocate Tony Leachon, who served as an adviser to the National Task Force COVID-19, said he was asked to resign because of social media posts critical of the government's coronavirus response.

"I think I was asked to resign," he said in a CNN Philippines interview on Wednesday, June 17.

Earlier that day, he had tweeted and posted on Facebook that he was no longer the special adviser to Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr, chief implementor of the National Action Plan against COVID-19.

Leachon said Galvez had told him that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque did not like his recent tweets and Facebook posts about the Department of Health (DOH).

"Ang sabi niya po, kinausap daw siya ni Secretary Roque at ni Secretary Duque about my tweets and my social media posts and hindi nila nagustuhan 'yung manner that I communicated to the public as to the many lapses ng Department of Health," said Leachon.

(He [Galvez] said that Secretary Roque and Secretary Duque spoke to him about my tweets and social media posts and they did not like the manner that I communicated to the public as to the many lapses of the Department of Health.)

On Saturday, June 13, Leachon criticized the government, and particularly DOH, for how it is handling the coronavirus pandemic.

"Please forgive me. But I think DOH has lost focus in everything. Risk communication, priorities, data management, and execution of all plans," he had said on Twitter and on Facebook.

Leachon later on tried to tone down his posts, saying they were the product of an "episodic emotional outburst." But he still gave some unsolicited advice to Duque, saying he needed the help of a "guiding coalition" composed of representatives from the academe and the private sector, as well as a "new strategy" against the coronavirus.  

On Wednesday, Leachon, however, said his posts were meant as "constructive criticism" that he was airing with the intention of helping the government do better.

"Not to criticize in a negative way, I feel it's a constructive comment so that the health agency will shape up knowing this is not business as usual; this is a crisis sitaution," said Leachon.

Duque, as health secretary, is chairman of the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), the main policy-making government body when it comes to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Roque, meanwhile, heads the government task force's Task Group on Strategic Communications.

Despite his parting of ways with the government's coronavirus team, Leachon said he "would take a bullet" for Galvez and even described him as the "modern-day hero" of the coronavirus crisis.

The week before Duterte decided to place Cebu City back under enhanced community quarantine starting June 16, Leachon had been in Cebu City with Galvez and deputy coronavirus plan implementer Vince Dizon, to gather data. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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