Malacañang names 3 more ‘anti-COVID czars’

Sofia Tomacruz

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Malacañang names 3 more ‘anti-COVID czars’

Public Works Secretary Mark Villar is 'isolation czar,' Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong is 'tracing czar,' and Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega is 'treatment czar'

MANILA, Philippines – In a bid to boost its testing, tracing, and treatment strategy as coronavirus cases continue to increase nationwide, the national government has named 3 more officials as “anti-COVID czars.”

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced on Monday, July 13, that Public Works Secretary Mark Villar would take on the role as “isolation czar,” while Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong would be “contact tracing czar,” and Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega as “treatment czar.”  

Villar, Magalong, and Vega will work with Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) president and CEO Vince Dizon, who was earlier named as the country’s COVID-19 testing czar. All 4 officials will work with retired general and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez Jr, who is chief implementer of the government’s coronavirus response.

The latest roles given to Villar, Magalong, and Vega add to President Rodrigo Duterte’s growing list of titles under the current administration. 


Roque said Villar was named isolation czar as the Department of Public Works and Highways had been largely involved in the construction of temporary treatment and monitoring facilities nationwide. 

According to Villar, the government currently has 129 regional evacuation centers being used as quarantine facilities, and around 15 more are eyed for completion in 3 weeks.

Contact tracing 

Meanwhile, Magalong had been placed in charge of the country’s contact tracing efforts as his work in beefing up Baguio City’s tracing strategy has been hailed by experts as a model other local government units can follow. 

Magalong, who was a former top police investigator, trained Baguio’s contact tracers to use a police questioning technique which has helped to keep the number of infections in the city down.

The mayor said this same interviewing strategy would will be taught during training for contact tracers, along with teaching tracers how to use the government’s “contact tracing e-system.”

The system will serve as a tool to collect data from tracing efforts and will also provide tracers with a “link analysis tool” and Geographic Information System. 

Contact tracing remains one of the country’s weakest areas of response to the outbreak, as latest data showed some 83,000 contact tracers were still needed.


Roque announced Vega would be in charge of closely monitoring the country’s critical care capacity and ensuring there are enough resources in the health system to treat coronavirus patients. 

Vega said among these are the immediate steps the Department of Health would be taking to ensure there are enough critical resources to cope with the increase in cases:

  • Expanding the allocation of beds in hospitals
  • Providing additional health care workers in hospitals
  • Providing additional facilities for public and private health facilities to reach the needed allocation of beds 

Aside from this, Vega is expected to aid in establishing a system for admitting and discharging patients across health care networks. –

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.