De Lima hits Duterte government’s ineptitude amid continued rise of COVID-19 infections


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Nearly a year since President Rodrigo Duterte declared the first pandemic lockdown in the Philippines, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed alarm over the continued rise of COVID-19 infections in the country brought about by the detection of more infectious variants of the virus, such as the South Africa (B1351) and United Kingdom (B117) variants.

De Lima, a staunch social justice and human rights champion, lamented how it appears that the Duterte administration has no concrete plans yet beyond reopening the economy amid the alarming situation.

“As number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise each day and the capacity of hospitals reach seriously critical levels again roughly one year since the Duterte administration imposed the world’s longest lockdown, Duterte admitted that he is still in a ‘quandary’ on what to do about the current situation,” she said.

“This pandemic has adversely affected our countrymen, but what has worsened the situation is Duterte’s ineptitude and failure of leadership. We have been seeking solutions and plans but all we’ve got so far are excuses, attacks on critics and politicking,” she added.

Reportedly, the Philippines now has 616,611 COVID-19 cases after the Department of Health (DOH) recorded 5,000 new infections as of March 13. The total number of active cases now reaches 56, 679.

It may be recalled that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a COVID-19 pandemic last March 11, 2020 and it would have been a year since Duterte declared the first pandemic lockdown in the country on March 15.

Despite the rise of infections, Duterte, in his speech last March 11, said that he “has to reopen the economy in a timetable of just weeks” because they cannot “forever be in the strict protocols.”

Kung makita ko na umabot na ng milyon ang vaccinated, probably, especially around towns and big cities, okay na. But hanggang ngayon I am in a quandary of what to do,” Duterte was quoted to have said.

“I have nothing against saving our economy, but it is important to strike a balance between protecting the economy and protecting people’s health. You cannot value one and ignore the other. It’s non-negotiable,” she said.

“Ang malala: ang lakas pa ng loob ng Malacañang na sabihing mahusay ang naging pagtugon nila sa pandemya at nakontrol na raw nila ang pagkalat ng sakit. Mapapailing ka na lang talaga sa tindi ng pagsisinungaling at panlilinlang ng gobyernong ito kahit halatang-halata ang kapalpakan nila,” De Lima stressed.

For now, De Lima said that the only thing clear is the fact that Duterte and his government have miserably failed to manage COVID-19, stressing that their lack of foresight and comprehensive plans ultimately exacerbated the crisis.

“I feel that in order to divert people’s attention from his ineptitude and misgovernance, Duterte is obsessing on his government’s anti-insurgency campaign and its resultant bloodbath. Why can’t he just focus on the pandemic and the economy? Wala ba siyang alam kundi maghasik ng kalituhan at karahasan?” De Lima said.

As early as Jan. 31, 2020, the WHO already declared a global emergency after the virus spread to more than a dozen countries, including the Philippines. But instead of seriously taking early precautions and laying out clear plans to address the threat, Duterte downplayed the issue by saying “that everything is well in the country and that there’s nothing really to be extra scared of the coronavirus thing.” (30)

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