Sotto on 7,000 new COVID-19 cases: ‘What is happening to our country?’

Mara Cepeda
Sotto on 7,000 new COVID-19 cases: ‘What is happening to our country?’

LEADER OF THE SENATE. Senate President Vicente Sotto III speaks during the plenary session on September 1, 2020.

File photo by Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB

Senate President Vicente Sotto III is frustrated with the Department of Health, saying it 'does not listen' to recommendations

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III was alarmed after the Philippines recorded over 7,000 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, March 19 – the highest single-day tally since the pandemic began. 

“I’m speechless! I don’t know what’s going on. What is happening to [our] country?” Sotto said in a text message to Rappler. 

A year since President Rodrigo Duterte’s government imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, COVID-19 cases have been steadily rising, with infections now at 648,066 following the additional 7,103 new cases reported on Friday.

The Octa Research group has already warned against the “serious surge” of cases in virus epicenter Metro Manila, where mayors have reimposed curfew hours and stricter rules to help quell the spread of cases. 

Senator Risa Hontiveros said the surge in cases only proves that the country is “failing” to combat COVID-19.

“We have not flattened the curve yet. And we never will if we remain in denial of the problem and what needs to be done to solve it. Numbers don’t lie: We are failing,” tweeted Hontiveros.

Asked what the government can do to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, a frustrated Sotto blamed the Department of Health (DOH) for not listening to policy recommendations. 

“I have my ideas, but they won’t listen anyway, so what’s the use? The DOH does not listen. Specially when ideas do not come from them, they do not follow or pursue. So, bahala sila (it’s up to them)!” said Sotto. 

The Senate President earlier said that while the Duterte government “has done what is necessary” to respond to the public health crisis, “a lot remains to be done” to fully combat COVID-19. 

He urged Filipinos to continue following health protocols and get themselves immunized against COVID-19 once the vaccines are widely available.

“When the vaccines are available for distribution, don’t pass on the opportunity, get vaccinated. Let us be pro-active in addressing the pandemic. You need to protect yourselves. And of course, let us not forget the basics – wear face masks and shields when in public places, observe social distancing and personal hygiene,” said Sotto in a statement.

Several senators said the Duterte government’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the country back to square one with the recent spike in cases.

The administration also faces widespread criticisms over the pace of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, which officially began on March 1 and remains limited to medical frontliners.

Senators urged Duterte to overhaul the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases and put up a vaccine tracker that can be used to map out the country’s next moves to fight COVID-19. –

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.