Duque needs ‘guiding coalition,’ new strategy vs coronavirus

Bonz Magsambol

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Duque needs ‘guiding coalition,’ new strategy vs coronavirus

LeAnne Jazul

'He needs to step up. He needs to hear the voices of the people, and perhaps reflect on some of the plans or measures,' says National Task Force adviser Dr Tony Leachon


MANILA, Philippines – National coronavirus task force adviser Dr Tony Leachon said on Tuesday, June 16, that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III needs 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.

Leachon said this in an interview with ANC on Tuesday, June 16, when he was asked to assess Duque’s performance in managing the coronvirus outbreak. 

“I think he also needs a guiding coalition from the academe or private sector because the job of the secretary right now is very tough, and perhaps develop a new vision, strategy for the next 3 months,” he said.

Leachon also said that it was time to “regroup” in relation to the coronavirus response efforts, and that Duque should “invite a lot of private sector [representatives] to help him.”

He gave the suggestions as he noted that the Philippines now has “two epicenters” of the coronavirus outbreak, which has made managing it even more challenging.

“The epicenter before is the National Capital Region (NCR). Now you have two epicenters. We cannot fight too many battles considering we have finite resources and manpower,” Leachon said. 

He didn’t mention what the other epicenter was but President Rodrigo Duterte had reverted Cebu City under strict lockdown due to its increasing COVID-19 cases. The President hd also extended Metro Manila’s general community quarantine to June 30.

University of the Philippines experts had said that Cebu province is the “second major battleground” in the country’s fight against COVID-19.

Leachon also said that Duque should listen to the people and reflect on the plans and measures taken by his department to respond to the pandemic.

“I would say that…he should work at the pleasure of the people. He needs to step up. He needs to hear the voices of the people, and perhaps reflect on some of the plans or measures,” Leachon said. 

There had been calls for Duque’s resignation but Duterte himself had shielded him from criticism. (READ: Duque hurt by calls for his resignation, vows to continue working his best)

‘Episodic emotional outburst’

Leachon was interviewed days after his “episodic emotional outburst” on social media due to frustrations over Department of Health (DOH) data. 

“The mantra is to trust DOH data but verify [with] other references,” Leachon said. 

In a text message to Rappler on Saturday, June 13, Leachon said he had to “sound the alarm bells” as he has a “moral responsibility to state the true state of health of our country.”

“It would be a great disservice to the President and the institution I serve if I would not advise people on real situation. It starts with data management and risk communication.  Lives are at stake,” Leachon said. 

In a statement on Sunday night, June 14, the DOH said that it had taken note of the “issues on data management and reporting of cases. 

“The government remains committed to full transparency. We know we are asking a lot from the public but please be assured that we will strive tirelessly through continuous education and engagement of citizens,” the DOH said. (READ: DOH: Recent spike in coronavirus deaths due to ‘late reports’)

On June 12, experts from the University of the Philippines called on the DOH to provide accurate and timely data on the coronavirus outbreak, warning that significant backlogs and missing data on the location of some cases could undermine efforts to contain the spread of the virus. (READ: U.P. experts say ‘open data’ is part of fight vs COVID-19)

As of Monday, the Philippines recorded over 26,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 1,098 deaths and over 6,000 recoveries. – Rappler.com

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.