Gov’t pandemic response is hard to defend

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    PRESIDENTIAL spokesman Harry Roque stumbled all over himself in his clumsy attempt at convincing Filipinos that the Duterte government did — and is doing — an excellent job in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. By Roque’s reckoning, government officials had done a splendid job in fighting the epidemic. Dodging reality on the ground and unable to produce the numbers to buttress his claim, Roque anchored his favorable assessment of the nation’s official pandemic response by comparing our situation with those of rich countries like the United States.

    The President’s spox said the US, the only world superpower now, has the most number of cases and fatalities in the world, yet “we are not even close to their level of spending on health and technology in our hospitals.”

    ‘The people deserve to be told the truth by their government.’

    Staring in Roque’s face is the March 13 tally of 5,000 cases — then the highest number of daily cases in 2021, the reason whatever words or arguments he use will come to naught because the numbers are saying the opposite of “successful.”

    As of Monday night, the Philippines had 626,893 cases, with 12,837 deaths and 560,577 recoveries from COVID-19 — a full year of the coronavirus 2019’s catastrophic rampage.

    Another proof that we are failing is that the presidential spokesman who shouts to high heavens that we are successful in this fight, is himself sick with COVID-19.

    The sorry situation gives credence to the truth of the information and interpretations of Sen. Risa Hontiveros in her privilege speech in the Senate. Marking the first anniversary of the COVID-19-induced lockdown in the country, Senator Hontiveros noted that the cases locally have only increased despite the nation’s having “one of the longest, strictest lockdowns in the world.”

    Hontiveros pointed out that on the day of her speech, the Department of Health reported 5,404 new COVID-19 cases, clearly disputing the “excellent response and excellent performance” touted a week before by Roque. She also said that after one year of being on lockdown, the reproduction rate of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila has risen to 1.86. Citing projections from the OCTA Research, she dished out the numbers both President Duterte and Roque dread to hear: some 8,000 projected daily cases by the end of March and from 18,000 to 20,000 by mid-April.

    The senator’s criticism was also directed at the militaristic approach Duterte utilized in fighting the pandemic, which she said clearly was a failure. True, the “virus is not going away just because you brandish a gun, just as it will not stop spreading because there are officers in fatigues at a checkpoint. It is our health professionals and scientists who need the widest berth. It is our development workers, our communities, our LGUs that need a boost in resources…”

    You can bet that President Duterte, who had told Vice President Leni Robredo that he is not “pikon,” will most likely take umbrage at these remarks. We can only thank Senator Hontiveros for calling a spade a spade, whoever gets hurt. The people deserve to be told the truth by their government.