Duque

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III might not be the best person to head the agency, but I don’t think there’s a need for him to resign as what some senators are demanding. One of them, Senator Grace Poe, said that Duque “failed the minimum standard of leadership.” Poe and 14 other Senators signed a resolution calling for Duque’s resignation because he allegedly failed to get mass Covid 19 testing into place. He is also being accused of gagging medical personnel and dragged his feet on getting FDA approval for Covid 19 testing laboratories.

The Senators are playing politics. They are placing into the feelings of discontent expressed by some people, and twisted the facts out of proportion. The allegations against Duque are thinly disguised attempts to distract the government’s efforts to combat the corona virus. For a month now, Senators have been pushed back the national stage. Their only role was to enact legislation to support the government’s Covid 19 response program.

Must Duque be blamed for the lack of mass testing capability? In case these Senators haven’t noticed, the Philippines isn’t the only nation that struggled with mass testing capabilities. Even the great United States of America was stymied in that area. The Covid 19 is a new virus, and the production of mass testing kits was limited. The pandemic hit the whole world at the same time. In the mad rush for testing kits, the Philippines had to compete with other nations to get hold of these testing kits.

Maybe the Senators ought to be reminded that government procurement was hampered by stringent procedures before the emergency was declared. In fact, my friend Minority Leader Franklin Drilon was quick to tell the DOH it could not do away with RA 9184 in trying to procure testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE). By the time the emergency powers were granted, the rest of the world was already ablaze with the disease.

This is the reason that we had to depend on donations from China, South Korea and other nations for our Covid 19 response capability at the start of this crisis.

On the matter of FDA approval for testing laboratories, the Senators must understand that it isn’t a matter of filling up application forms and pushing the paperwork around. There are strict protocols to be followed. And the FDA was overwhelmed by avalance of bureaucratic challenges that included evaluation of locally produced testing kits and potential drugs. It was like a squad of the Army being attacked by the entire New People’s Army at the crack of dawn.

No matter how great the pressure was on them, the FDA could not afford to take short-cuts, unlike what the government did when then DOH Secretary Janette Garin pushed for the early approval of Dengvaxia vaccine and pave the way for its anomalous procurement in 2015.

I admit Duque lacks certain qualities that inspire public confidence. But I don’t think it amounts to critical leadership lapses that endangered people’s lives. We must not lose sight of the fact that we have effectively contained the virus after a month, notwithstanding the failure of local government units in Metro Manila to strictly enforce the home quarantine. The numbers do not lie. The Philippines still ranks low in terms of Covid 19 infections.

Finally, these Senators need to be reminded that Duque needs only to have the full trust and confidence of one person: President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. If he has accountability, it’s to the President of the Republic, unless, of course, he has broken laws. So far, the issue is more of his perceived lack of leadership by standards imposed by Senators who don’t have a clue about what the situation demands. It’s a matter that’s outside their league.

It would be better for them to let the crisis end before Senator Poe gets back to her practice of unproductive investigations in aid of legislation.

Decisive leadership

When this crisis is all over, the Filipino nation will be grateful that we have President Rodrigo Roa Duterte at the helm when the deadly corona virus (Covid 19) swept all across the globe.

As I write this, the total number of infections is close to 2 million, and the death toll stood at 126,000 people. The hardest hit is the United States, followed by Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. China, where the virus had originated, has gone down to number seven in the list.

It is our good fortune that the Philippines is just number 35 in the list, notwithstanding the fact that international air travel to and from China wasn’t suspended until late January this year. And after a month of community lockdowns in the entire archipelago, the incidence of infections seems to have slowed down. The latest figures from WHO placed the number of Covid 19 cases at 5,223, and 335 dead.

I have been studying the movement of the corona virus closely even before the WHO raised its spread to pandemic level. And it is clear to me that the decision of President Duterte to impose a lockdown effective March 15 was an effective brake to slow down the pandemic in the Philippines.

Right from the start, the idea was met with criticism and opposition. Senate President Tito Sotto described it as “over-reaction”. It was ridiculed by media critics Karen Davila and Richard Heydarian. The members of the opposition and the left joined the chorus.

Vice President Leni Robredo also questioned why policemen and soldiers were deployed on the streets to enforce the quarantine. The pandemic called for a medical response, and not a military show of force, Robredo said. Well, it was a ridiculous statement. Did Robredo expect doctors and nurses to man checkpoints?

Anyway, countries that closed its borders and imposed strict stay-at-home quarantine measures have turned out to have lower Covid 19 infections compared to the others that lingered too long on the decision. New Zealand and Denmark stand out to prove the point that a lockdown is the most effective way to contain the disease. On the other hand, the United States is the best illustration of how deadly the delay in the lockdown turned out to be.

President Duterte has had to manage this crisis with plenty of distractions from the yellow opposition and the left. As I have been saying in my YouTube videos, there is a destabilization plot right in the middle of this crisis, obviously funded by the oligarchs and led by media giant ABS-CBN. President Duterte had his hands full every minute during this period.

But things are improving. We have deflected the usual trajectory of the corona virus infections. Instead of a spike as we have witnessed in other countries, the infection curve in the country is more like a road hump that gradually rose before levelling off. It is a positive indication that the lockdown in working.

Had the President hesitated, nightmare scenes that we have seen in the U.S. and Europe and Latin America would have sprouted all over the country, with Metro Manila as the epicenter. It was a tough decision to make. Just thinking how things would have turned out if a Mar Roxas was our president is enough to give me the chills.

Yes, the President’s decisiveness at a most crucial moment was a life-saver for the country.

Grace Poe pumapapel sa gitna ng krisis

Kumukulo ang dugo ko dahil sa pagbatikos na naman ni Senator Grace Poe sa Department of Health sa binili nitong mga protetive personal equipment o PPE para sa ating mga doctors, nurses at iba pang frontliners na lumalaban sa Covid 19 pandemic.

Overpriced daw ang binili ng DOH sa halagang P1,800 bawat set ng PPE. Sa kanyang canvass daw, ang bawat isa ay pumipresyo lang ng P400 hanggang P1,000 per set. Pero hindi naman niya sinabi kung saan siya nag canvass, at kung ano ang material na ginamit para dito.

Sa paglilinaw ni DOH Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire, hindi pare-pareho ang paggawa ng mga PPE. Ayon sa kanya, itong binili ng DOH ay top-of-the-line. Pinakatibay panglaban sa mga infectious disease. Kaya may kamahalan

Oo nga naman, Senator Grace.

Kahit sa anong gamit, iba iba ang presyo. May fake na Rolex na mabibili mo sa halagang P500. Yung genuine at hindi mo mabili ng mas mababa sa P250,000. Meron pa nga milyon-milyon. It’s the same thing with cell phones and many other gadgets. May peke. May genuine. Siyempre mura ang peke.

More than that, we are living in dangerous times. And that danger is nowhere more present than our hospitals where Covid 19 patients are being treated. Our doctors, nurses, medical technologists, staff and even janitors are exposed to the virus 24/7.

Hindi na kailangan pang ipaliwanag ang panganib na hinaharap nila. As of last night, 19 na yata ang mga doctor na namatay dahil sa sakit na ito.

Sa ganitong sitwasyon, time is of the utmost essence. Rush, rush, rush. At lahat na bansa ngayon ay nag-aagawan para makabili ng PPEs para sa kanilang mga hospital frontliners. It’s the basic law of supply and demand at work. The DOH just had to buy by the hundreds of thousands of sets ASAP. Wala nang panahon upang makipagtawaran.

Gusto lang talaga ni Senator Poe na magpaporma at the expense of the government’s efforts to combat this pandemic. What is she trying to prove? That she is for clean government? Holy shit! Puro Senate investigation na nga lang ang ginagawa niya. Wala namang positive output.

For example, she conducted hearings into the drug situation in Iloilo just before the 2016 elections. She was running for President, and apparently, she figured it would help varnish her image if she looked to be tough on illegal drugs.

Subalit wala namang nangyari pagkaraan ng limang taon. Poof! The issue vanished into thin air.

Kaya Madam Senator, please keep your mouth shut at this time.

We heal as one, but dilawans keep pulling nation down

Two days ago, inulunsad ang isang serye ng mga online concerts na may tema na “We heal as one” sa gitna ng krisis dulot ng Covid 19 pandemic sa bansa.

Indeed, this is a time for everybody to close ranks and fight this disease as one people. Mas malubha pa sa pandaigdig na digmaan ito. Kailangan magtulongan tayo upang masugpo ang sakit. Sana makalimutan muna ang political divisiveness. Malaking kahirapan ang nasa harap natin, pero kailangan maging matatag ang kalooban natin at mag-tiis. This requires big sacrifice.

Kaya nalulungkot ako na makita ang mga dilawan at mga leftist groups na patuloy na ina-atake ang ating gobyerno on the propaganda front. Uma-agaw eksena sila sa bawat pagkakataon. Walang pahinga sa paghanap ng dahilan upang maka reklamo. Gusto nila ipalabas na hindi ginagawa ng gobyerno ang katungkulan nito sa taong bayan.

There will be a time for accountability. But not now.

Bigyan natin ang gobyerno, lalo na si President Duterte, ng pagkataon na mamuno na walang hadlang at abala. Kung may kapalpakan sa mga ahensiya, nakakasiguro ako na nakikita yan ni President Duterte. Hiindi nakakatulong ang pag-iingay.

LET US HEAL AS ONE.