Duterte: Military to instill order if coronavirus outbreak becomes pandemic

Sofia Tomacruz
Duterte also says that while the government was 'on top' of the coronavirus threat, doctors should work double-time to find a virus cure

PRESIDENT'S ORDERS. President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech during the oath-taking ceremony of the newly-appointed government officials at the Malacañang Palace on February 6, 2020. Malacañang photo

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte once again turned to the military when confronting problems faced by the government, saying he would tap uniformed personnel to ensure order in the country in the event the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak becomes a pandemic.

Duterte on Monday, February 10, said he wanted the military and police to instill public order should the spread of the coronavirus worsen. He likewise said that while the government was “on top” of the “idiot” coronavirus threat, doctors should work double-time to find a cure to the virus.

Kung sabihin mo na ano, pandemic talaga (If you say it’s really a pandemic already), then I will have to utilize for order and obedience of people, the military and the police,” Duterte said in a speech before local chief executives.

Earlier in his speech, Duterte rejected criticisms his administration was slow to act on the coronavirus and that it lacked the infrastructure to deal with such an outbreak. He cited the expertise and restrictive measures taken by health officials as proof it was dealing with the disease.

Despite this, Duterte continued to downplay the spread of the coronavirus, saying the public would rely on the strength of Filipinos’ antibodies to prevent the spread and further contamination from the virus.

“You want to shout to the heavens? Go ahead. Will it prevent the coronavirus from entering the country? Long before the alarm was raised marami nang mga (there were many) Chinese and Filipinos…na pumunta na doon (who went there [Wuhan]. So kung sabihin mo (So if you say) it’s a matter of contamination, we will just have to rely on how strong the antibodies of the Philippines are,” Duterte said.

Medyo hindi madali ang Pilipino tamaan ng sakit. Unang-una malakas magdasal (Filipinos don’t get sick easily. First of all, they pray a lot)…. It’s when you do not follow rules that trouble comes in and that’s true for every human act,” he added.

Duterte also sought to give assurances once more that Filipinos had nothing to worry about as he said the government was “doing its best” to respond to the spread of the coronavirus in the Philippines.

Maniwala lang kayo sa gobyerno (Just have faith in the government), in a crisis involving deaths and getting people sick, we will do our very best,” he said.

While health officials have given assurances they are closely monitoring suspected novel coronavirus cases in the country, they repeatedly reminded the public to practice good personal hygiene such as frequent handwashing and to seek medical treatment immediately, if necessary.

So far, health officials announced 284 patients were under investigation for the coronavirus in the Philippines.

The Department of Health has confirmed 3 cases of the novel coronavirus in the Philippines. These include the first death outside China – a 44-year-old Chinese man who traveled to the Philippines from Wuhan. The man was the country’s second confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, and a companion of the first patient, a 38-year-old Chinese woman, who has since recovered from the virus.

The Philippines’ third confirmed case, a 60-year-old woman from China, also subsequently tested negative for the novel coronavirus after a few days in the hospital and has since returned to China.

As of Monday, the novel coronavirus has killed over 900 and sickened over 40,000 globally, with China as the worst-hit country. Meanwhile, at least 3,400 have reportedly recovered. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.