Lacson-Sotto slam 'reactive' Duterte gov't vs COVID-19 Delta variant

Senators Panfilo Lacson and Vicente Sotto III called on the Duterte government on Friday, July 23, to step up its pandemic response as the Philippines detected local transmission of the more infectious Delta coronavirus variant.

Lacson lamented the Duterte government's being stuck in a "medicine cabinet" mentality, where medical provisions are only audited and bought when a medical disaster has already hit. (READ: Duterte and his generals: A shock and awe response to the pandemic)

"It is pathetic that our national health authorities are no different, being reactive instead of proactive. Knowing the Delta variant has already gripped India and Indonesia, it seems they have not prepared adequately," Lacson said.

Lacson saw this in the slow declaration of lockdowns during the first days of the pandemic and the failure of contact tracing. (READ: ‘We are failing’: House highlights Duterte admin’s mishandling of pandemic)

He said that the next leader of the Philippines should replace Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. He also said the government must stop relying on the private sector.

"If the private sector has taken the initiative, it can only mean that the government is failing to address the problem at hand. Sadly, it is what is happening," Lacson said.

The need for strict enforcement

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, meanwhile, urged the Duterte government to strictly enforce lockdown measures to stem the spread of the more infectious and deadly coronavirus variant.

Puwede naman pong GCQ (general community quarantine) ang ating classification pero maghigpit tayo sa mga mass gatherings (We can retain GCQ, but be strict with mass gatherings)," Sotto said in a statement sent to Rappler.

This comes as Filipinos have become more lax in enforcing and following lockdown rules and basic quarantine guidelines. like the proper wearing of face masks and maintaining physical distance in all places.

Sotto said keeping businesses open is important, but added, "it is equally important to make sure that our people are safe from the virus." (READ: Doctors plead with gov’t: ‘We can’t fight this virus with antiquated methods’)

The Senate President then reminded the government that its health facilities must be ready for a possible surge of cases.

"It is important that our people know their leaders are moving to ensure their safety," Sotto said in Filipino.

COVID as an election issue

Sotto and Lacson have been criticizing the Duterte government's – but not Duterte's – mishandling of the pandemic.

Both see themselves as part of an "alternative" to the current administration.

Metro Manila is currently under "stricter" general community quarantine.

Meanwhile, provinces are under a mix of GCQ, a GCQ "with heightened restrictions" and modified enhanced community quarantine.

Most of the lockdowns will last until July 31, unless the Duterte government extends the lockdown period or changes its classification earlier. –

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.