Opposition: Duque compromises govt campaign vs coronavirus

Lian Buan

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Opposition: Duque compromises govt campaign vs coronavirus

Angie de Silva

(UPDATED) Senator Franklin Drilon also slams the slow validation of positive results

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Opposition Senator Franklin Drilon said on Saturday, May 23, that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has compromised the credibility and efficacy of the government’s campaign to beat the novel coronavirus.

“Nakakalungkot at lalong nahihirapan ang kampanya ng pamahalaan hangga’t nandiyan si Sec. Duque,” Drilon said on Saturday over radio DWIZ.

(It’s sad to think that the government is having a hard time with its campaign as long as Secretary Duque is there.)

Duque was under fire recently for declaring that the Philippines was already in its 2nd wave of coronavirus infections. Department of Health or DOH-tapped epidemiologist John Wong explained that the first 3 cases in January was considered the 1st wave. 

Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire backed it up by saying the Philippines only notices major waves, so while we are currently on our first major wave, it is technically the 2nd wave.

After a backlash, with a pushback coming from Malacañang through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Duque conceded and said we are only on our first wave of infection.

“Talagang may pagkukulang si Secretary Duque. Mukhang hindi naagapan ang mga problema kaya lalong nahihirapan ang pamahalaan sa laban na ito dahilan sa nawawalan ng krediblidad dahilan sa hindi nagkakasundo ang mga kinatawan ng gobyerno,” said Drilon.

(Secretary Duque really has shortcomings. It looks like we didn’t face the problem head on so it was more difficult to fight this. Disagreements among government officials also contribute to the eroding of credibility.)

Drilon said President Rodrigo Duterte must confront this is a real problem.

“At a certain point, kailangang harapin ng Pangulo ang problemang ito kung ganito ang magiging takbo. Ang credibility ng pamahalaan ay adversely affected by this lack of testing, lack of coordinated information,” said Drilon.

(At a certain point, the President needs to face this problem if it continues to be like this. The government’s credibility is adversely affected by this lack of testing and lack of coordinated information.)

When senators called for Duque’s resignation in April, Duterte backed him up and said the former will stay put as Health chief.

None of the minority senators signed the resolution on April 16.

“Ako hindi ako sumama noong umpisa. Pero ngayon kumbinsido na ako na dapat sumama ako sa resolution na iyon,” Drilon said.

(I didn’t join at first, but now I’m convinced I should join the resolution.)

Failure of leadership

In a statement on Sunday, May 24, detained Sen. Leila de Lima said that the failure of Duterte to address the “solid evidence of ineptitude and lack of regard for public accountability” of his men has worsened the health crisis.

De Lima echoed Drilon’s criticisms of Duque. “I cannot imagine that in the middle of this pandemic, the head of the health department, the lone medical doctor in the Cabinet, seems to be misinformed on the issue, thereby confusing other medical experts,” she said.

De Lima also rebuked presidential spokesperson Harry Roque for refusing to issue a public apology to CNN Philippines reporter Triciah Terada after berating her in a press briefing for a story she did not write.

The senator chided National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Major General Debold Sinas for coming up with excuses for his birthday “mañanita” which broke quarantine rules yet he filed a complaint against volunteers who organized a soup kitchen for displaced jeepney drivers in Marikina City for alleged illegal assembly. (READ: Duterte sides with Sinas: ‘He stays until further orders’)

“The COVID-19 pandemic, as it stands, is already proving to be a handful for even the most competent of governments around the globe. However, here in the Philippines, it is invariably worsened by man-made disasters of incompetency and lack of integrity that the very President of this nation not only tolerates, but even worse, grants impunity to,” de Lima said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic for governments is, above all, a test of leadership and governance. Our failure in containing COVID-19 at the cost of our country’s worst economic downturn in recent history is a direct consequence of ineptitude in the highest office in our land and the people in whom he reposed his trust,” she added.

Slow validation

Drilon also slammed the slow validation of the DOH of positive virus test results.

As of May 23, there are 13,777 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Philippines, but this number doesn’t reflect earlier positive results which are yet to be validated, said Drilon.

Malaking problema ito, mahigit 19,321 ang na-test na positive, ang na-confirmed ng DOH ay mahigit 13,000 lamang. Ang ibig sabihin, sa bawat 100 na positibo, 70 pa lang ang na-validate ng DOH,” Drilon said.

(This is a big problem, more than 19,321 have tested positive but the DOH has only confirmed more than 13,000. It means that for every 100 positive cases, DOH has validated only 70.)

 Drilon said that the DOH lacks encoders and disease surveillance officers.

“Dapat mag-hire sila. Nakakatakot ito. Hindi dapat manatili ito. Dapat ayusin. Ang testing ay importante para hindi tayo nanghuhula kung ilan ang apektado sa ating kababayan,” said Drilon.

(They should hire. This is scary, it shouldn’t continue being this way. They need to fix this. Testing is important, so we are not left guessing how many are really infected.) – Rappler.com


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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.