Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila
Updated: December 07, 2021 09:27 AM GMT
Father Nicanor Austriaco praised Philippine health authorities for controlling Covid. (Photo supplied)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has jokingly offered a Dominican priest the top post in the health department after being impressed by his presentation on the Omicron Covid variant.
Dominican Father Nicanor Austriaco, a molecular biologist who heads an independent research group in the Philippines, was told by Duterte that he could replace Health Secretary Francisco Duque Jr. if he wanted the post.
“I would be happy to appoint you as the new secretary of health if that is OK with you,” Duterte told Father Austriaco in jest during his Talk to the People press conference on Nov. 6.
Duterte also asked Father Austriaco, who is presently in the United States, about his background as molecular biologist.
The priest told Duterte he wanted the Filipino people to benefit from his scholarly work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He declined Duterte’s offer with a laugh while saying the present health secretary was doing “just fine.”
The Covid-19 numbers [of infection] in the Philippines are some of the best numbers in the world … there is no need to panic
Duterte revealed that Duque, who faces multiple corruption charges due to overpriced face masks and vaccines, wanted to resign.
“He wants to rest after all this ruckus against him. I forced him to stay but he would be happy to give his position to you, I am sure,” Duterte told Father Austriaco.
Father Austriaco praised health authorities for controlling the Covid-19 situation in the Philippines in recent months.
“The Covid-19 numbers [of infection] in the Philippines are some of the best numbers in the world … there is no need to panic,” he said in his presentation.
He also said Filipinos could celebrate the Christmas season while observing health protocols like wearing masks and physical distancing.
“First, there is no need to panic. Let us celebrate Pasko [Christmas]. This is the best time in 20 months for the entire country,” Father Austriaco said.
Duterte thanked the priest for saying Filipinos could celebrate Christmas, saying the Omicron variant was “not that scary.”
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