COVID-19

Palace to LGUs: Don’t blame ‘best communicator’ Duterte for vaccine site crowding

Pia Ranada
Palace to LGUs: Don’t blame ‘best communicator’ Duterte for vaccine site crowding

LONG LINES. Crowds form outside SM City San Lazaro in Manila as people seek a COVID-19 jab on August 5, 2021, a day before Metro Manila reverts to ECQ.

Rappler

'Wala pong pagkakamali ang ating Presidente sa kanyang pananalita,' says Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Malacañang told Metro Manila local governments not to blame President Rodrigo Duterte’s threats to unvaccinated persons for the swarming that happened at COVID-19 vaccination sites.

Without naming any specific mayor, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday, August 9, said there were certain people saying Duterte is to blame for “panic” at vaccination sites even during the weekend.

“Kinakailangan naman po, mga lokal na pamahaalan, tanggapin po ang katungkulan na isaayos ang pagbabakuna at huwag ibaling ang sisi sa ating Presidente,” said Roque in a press briefing.

(Local governments, you need to accept that it’s your job to properly organize vaccinations and not pass blame to our President.)

News reports on the lockdown, such as that of Al Jazeera, feature Metro Manila residents who say it was Duterte’s words that led them to rush to vaccination sites.

But Roque himself, as well as local government personnel and pandemic task force officials, blame “fake news” for the long lines. The “fake news” supposedly consist of wrong claims that unvaccinated people will be arrested, or will be prevented from leaving their houses, or will not get aid from the government.

Incidentally, in mid-June, Duterte himself said on television that he would order the arrest of people refusing to get vaccinated.

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, seen to be a possible challenger to administration bets in the 2022 elections, has said politics was likely involved in the crowding at some of his city’s vaccination sites.

Timing of Duterte’s threat

Roque’s main argument for saying Duterte’s remarks had nothing to do with the vaccination chaos was its timing.

He claimed that because Duterte made his threat to keep unvaccinated people in their homes on July 28, it’s “unlikely” that it drove the August 5 crowds a week later.

“When the President said that, it was [Wednesday] the week before. The crowding happened on Thursday so what the President said had nothing to do with it,” said Roque.

The Duterte spokesman argued that if the President’s words are really to blame, why didn’t people rush to vaccination sites right after July 28?

However, Roque’s reasoning does not account for the fact that people may hear news about the President’s remarks days after he made them or that August 5 was the day right before the Metro Manila lockdown.

Roque accused anyone blaming Duterte of adding a political color to events.

“Wala tayong magagawa kung lalagyan ‘nyo ng kulay ‘yung sinasabi ng Presidente, talagang magkakaroon ‘yan ng kulay (We can’t do anything if you will put a slant to what the President said, people will really put a slant),” said the spokesman.

‘Best communicator’

Asked by Rappler if pandemic task force officials should advise Duterte to be more careful with his statements about the pandemic, Roque said the President doesn’t need to make adjustments because he is the “best communicator” in the country.

“Wala pong pagkakamali ang ating Presidente sa kanyang pananalita at kung paniniwalaan natin ang mga surveys, ano, the President remains to be the best communicator and the best positive communicator in the country today,” said Roque.

(The President has made no mistake in his words and if you believe the surveys, the President remains to be the best communicator and the best positive communicator in the country today.)

Though Duterte has performed well in approval and satisfaction surveys conducted by Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations, there are no surveys that specifically gauge his communication style.

Vice President Leni Robredo has said the government should not make announcements of policies that have not been discussed comprehensively among officials. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.