2022 PH presidential race

‘No sense of urgency’: 4 presidential bets score Duterte’s slow COVID-19 response

Sofia Tomacruz, Bonz Magsambol
‘No sense of urgency’: 4 presidential bets score Duterte’s slow COVID-19 response

HEALTH CRISIS. Commuters of the MRT-3 show their vaccination cards before boarding trains on January 18, 2022.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

Despite having one of the longest lockdowns in the world, the Philippines is still struggling to contain the deadly virus as the country enters the third year of battling the health crisis

MANILA, Philippines – Four presidential bets in the upcoming May 2022 polls pointed to the lack of quick, proactive action as the biggest flaw of the Duterte government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic that has infected over 3 million Filipinos and killed over 50,000. 

During GMA’s “Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews” aired on Saturday, January 22, Vice President Leni Robredo, Senator Panfilo Lacon, Senator Manny Pacquiao, and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno all cited how the government continued its belated response even as the pandemic progressed into its second year. They said it was one of the foremost aspects they would change should they be elected as chief executive. 

One invited presidential candidate, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., was unable to state his plan because he declined to be interviewed.

Must Read

Pandemic unravels Duterte’s 2016 promise of decisive leadership

Marami namang ginawa, pero ‘yung pinaka-problema talaga number one, walang sense of urgency,” Robredo said. (A lot has been done, but the biggest, number one problem, was that there’s no sense of urgency.) 

To the Vice President, much of the suffering and problems Filipinos had to endure over the past years could have been avoided had there been quick action from the government. Robredo cited as an example the failure to secure personal protective equipment for health workers early in the pandemic, as well as the weeks it took for the government to finally decide to close the country’s borders. 

While may mga bagay na magagandang nagawa, nababagalan talaga (While there were good things done, it was too slow),” she added. 

As vice president, Robredo had been lauded for her office’s initiatives to respond to the health crisis despite its meager budget. The projects she launched included the free teleconsultation service Bayanihan E-Konsulta, the drive-through vaccination drive Vaccine Express, the provision of COVID-19 home care kits and anti-COVID-19 medicine, and the mobile testing Swab Cab.

Moreno, who was tasked to contain the virus in the capital city, pointed to inefficiencies in the national government’s distribution of aid that was necessary to support families through lockdown measures that kept them from earning a living. The government’s emergency subsidy program had missed several deadlines for distribution in 2020, when the country had one of the longest lockdowns in the world.

Asked what policies he would continue, the Manila mayor cited his city’s performance in vaccinating its population which was now at 140% of its target.  “We were given the task September – 70%, we went up to 110% at the time. Now we’re at 140% vaccinated, double the goal,” Moreno said. 

Marami dapat lang i-adjust (Many things just need to be adjusted),” he added.

Must Read

Isko twits 2022 candidates who were ‘nowhere to be found’ during pandemic

Isko twits 2022 candidates who were ‘nowhere to be found’ during pandemic

Lacson, for his part, said that the government should be “proactive” in terms of responding to the pandemic and every response should be guided by science.

“Ang dapat itama dito, dapat naging proactive. Tapos dapat laging science-based at data-driven. Bawat kilos natin dapat nakabase sa siyensiya at nakatuon sa mga datos na available,” Lacson said.

(What should have been done was the government should have been proactive. And [government action] should be science-based and data-driven. All of our moves should be based on science and focused on available data.)

The Philippine government has been widely criticized for appointing retired generals and former military men to lead the country’s pandemic response. Despite having one of the longest lockdowns in the world, the Philippines is still struggling to contain the deadly virus as the country enters the third year of battling the health crisis.

Duterte and his generals: A shock and awe response to the pandemic

Duterte and his generals: A shock and awe response to the pandemic

For Pacquiao, the government should focus on ramping up its vaccination drive to contain the further spread of coronavirus. The boxer-turned-politician hit the government for supposedly putting areas under lockdown whenever surge in infections happens, as its immediate response.

“Ang sinasabi ko na po noon ay mass vaccination para hindi tayo lockdown nang lockdown. Dahil po sa lockdown, maraming business ang nagsarado,” he said. (What I’ve been saying is that we should be doing mass vaccination so will not resort to lockdowns. Due to lockdowns, many businesses have closed.)

As of January 23, around 54.26% of the country’s 110-million population have received the first of two doses of the vaccine. Meanwhile, those who have taken both jabs as well as single-dose vaccines represent around 51.97% of the population. – 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.

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.