Duterte rejects calls for IATF overhaul

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    PRESIDENT Duterte on Wednesday defended his preference for former military officers in the fight against the pandemic, particularly the vaccine rollout, saying “This is a mechanical act. It is not a study of medicine.”

    Duterte issued the remark amid calls by senators for an overhaul of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Infectious Emerging Diseases after a significant increase in new COVID-19 cases the past weeks.

    “Ano ito, parang transaction sa negosyo kaya tinawag ko si (This is like a business transaction that’s why I called on (Carlito) Galvez, secretary, para siya ang magdala (so he will be the one to lead). You need not be a doctor here ‘coz you are transacting a business. It is not really a matter of medical science that you are talking of),” Duterte said.

    Aside from Galvez, Duterte has also appointed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as the National Task Force chair; Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano, a former AFP chief of staff, as NTF vice chair; Roy Cimatu as the overseer of the COVID response in Cebu; and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, a former police general, as tracing czar.

    Senate president pro tempore Ralph Recto on Tuesday said the government should reinforce its pandemic response team by naming a new leader who will lead the fight against COVID-19 amid the increasing number of daily infections.

    Recto said the government must include in its roster members of the private sector “with superb managerial skills such as those have been running companies with a million moving parts with efficiency and precision” and not rely merely on retired military officials.

    Recto said it is about time Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Galvez are replaced in a bid to change the game plan against COVID-19.