MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed peace process Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr as Chief Implementer of the government’s national policy on addressing the coronavirus pandemic.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo and Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Spokesperson Wilben Mayor confirmed this to reporters on Thursday night, March 26.
“As Chief Implementer, Secretary Galvez has been directed to ensure the strict compliance and adherence of everyone – public and private sector – to the guidelines and protocols issued by the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases),” according to the memo on Galvez’s appointment signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, and seen by Rappler.
Galvez’s duty is “to protect and promote the safety and welfare of the public…and ensure the efficient and expeditious distribution of government assistance to the public,” the memo said.
Duterte earlier appointed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is 71, as head of the National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19, which will be the enforcer of the IATF’s policies on handling the pandemic.
The IATF is led by the Department of Health (DOH). The NTF COVID-19 will be headed by the Department of National Defense (DND), with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) as vice chair.
Third in command
So where does Galvez, as Chief Implementer, figure in this set-up?
He will be third in the chain of command after Lorenzana and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Galvez told Rappler in a message.
“I will implement the guidance of the National Command Authority, which is the President, and the policy directives of the IATF and the operations of NTF COVID-19. I am the third man who will serve under NTF COVID19 Commander, Secretary Lorenzana, and Secretary Año, the National Incident Commander,” Galvez said.
“I was given the instruction by the President to ensure that the National Action Plan – to contain, isolate and eliminate the threat of COVID-19 and mitigate its impact – is fully implemented,” he added.
Earlier on Thursday, Lorenzana called for the “full support” of the military and police as he set about leading the NTF COVID-19.
Military stepping in
This development marks a shift from the police-centered strategy seen in the initial enforcement of “enhanced community quarantine” or lockdowns in Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, and other parts of the country.
The police, a civilian force, is supervised by the DILG. With Lorenzana taking the helm, the military – supervised by the DND – takes on a more prominent role in measures to quell the pandemic.
Lorenzana, Año, and Galvez are retired military generals. Año and Galvez both served as Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (CSAFP). Duterte has repeatedly expressed his preference for military men in his Cabinet because of their efficiency and training in the chain of command.
The entire island of Luzon, including Metro Manila, is on lockdown as a measure to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus. Other parts of the Philippines have also gone on lockdown.
The “enhanced community quarantine” of Luzon will end on April 12, and for Metro Manila, April 14.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Philippines has recorded 707 confirmed cases of the disease, with 28 recoveries and 45 deaths. – with Sofia Tomacruz/Rappler.com