SENATE president pro tempore Ralph Recto yesterday said Malacañang should name a new team leader to spearhead its response efforts to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, as he noted the increasing number of daily infections despite the movement restrictions and health protocols imposed by the government.
“COVID is fast and furious while the vaccine rollout is slow and sputtering. These are signs of a government’s pandemic machinery in trouble and a nation in danger. Hindi lang change oil ang kailangan, mukhang change engine na rin (It seems that having an oil change is no longer enough, but rather we must already change the engine),” Recto said.
“If after a year, the current one is not bringing us to where we want to be, then it is time to build a better one,” he added.
Recto said the government must include in its pandemic response team members of the private sector “with superb managerial skills such as those who have been running companies with a million moving parts with efficiency and precision” and not merely rely on retired military officials.
He noted lack of a representative from the private sector in the Inter Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), which has for its members the secretary of health as chair, and the secretaries of foreign affairs, interior and local government, justice, labor and employment, tourism, and transportation as members.
“The private sector also has no permanent seat on the table in the National Task Force (NTF) for COVID-19, the command center that is headed by the secretary of national defense,” he added.
Recto said it is about time to replace Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez so the government can change its game plan to win the fight against COVID-19.
“Secretaries Duque and Galvez can remain within the IATF, but with new roles. They can be one of the pistons of a new, smarter engine that will have more cylinders, but no longer its ECU, its computer brain. Having reinforced the IATF, it is time to put a new man on the driver’s seat,” Recto said.
“But even the best car, more so the one that will bring us out of this crisis, cannot run on autopilot. There should be a stronger Malacañang team that will direct the war against COVID round-the-clock, whose diagnostic equipment is plugged into the nation’s COVID fighting machine so that adjustments are made and trouble fixed in real time,” he said.
NO TO IATF ABOLITION
Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Harry Roque yesterday rejected calls to abolish the IATF, which he likened to the abolition of the whole government.
“Wala pong mabubuwag because kapag binuwag mo ang IATF, it is as if you are, bubuwagin mo iyong buong gobyerno kasi wala naman pong ibang buhay ang IATF kung hindi iyong gobyerno mismo (It will not be abolished because if you abolish the IATF, it is as if you are abolishing the whole government because the IATF has no life other than the whole government,” Roque said.
The IATF, he pointed out, is a collegial body that is represented by the different agencies of government and all decisions are based on data and science.
Roque’s statement was in response to the call of Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Imee Marcos to abolish the IATF amid the worsening COVID-19 condition in the country. Sen. Risa Hontiveros, on the other hand, has called for an overhaul of both the IATF and the NTF.
Roque said government critics could not fault the government for the increase in COVID-19 cases because this happened because of the spread of the new variants of the virus.
“Whether we accept it or not, the virus mutated and it’s probably not the IATF’s fault that they mutated in a way that they became more contagious,” he said.
Roque said the country has been able to successfully managed the COVID-19 situation until the surge in cases this month.
Roque said critics have been politicizing the issue in anticipation of the election next year.
He said that when it comes to politics and the election season, everything will be turned into an issue and will be used to the advantage of some people.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who is eligible to run for another term in next year’s national election, took a swipe at Roque for his comment.
In a Twitter post, Lacson said being critical of the government is not the same as politicking.
“Really? Harry are you serious? Just because I criticize, pamumulitika na? Wala akong tarpaulins. Pag nagbibigay ako ng ayuda sa mga nasalanta ng bagyo at iba pang nangangailangan, tulong lang talaga kaya walang media coverage (Just because I criticize the government that is already politicking? I don’t have tarpaulins. If I give assistance to typhoon victims and others, I don’t have media coverage),” Lacson said.
He added: “I can enumerate to you privately if you want proof.”
Lacson was one of the senators who demanded an accounting of the vaccines that the government said was arriving, and an audit of the financial support that the government has gotten from Congress and the loans it has obtained from foreign entities and international financial institutions. – With Jocelyn Montemayor