After having been fired as co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs, having bungled her job, Vice President Leni Robredo seems not to lose nor diminish her talent of putting herself into questionable or pathetic situations. She appears not to acquire a political acumen of making herself productive and relevant without being untruthful or out of touch from reality. From the time of her departure from the Cabinet, she has trained her guns at the Duterte presidency and his administration, always finding fault at the government’s policies.
Like the other incorrigible and rambunctious critics, she is against the foreign policy on China, describing it as soft and anti-nationalistic. She considers the anti-terrorism bill as not only untimely but an assault to press freedom, forgetting the grave threat that terrorism foists on our countrymen, as well as misreading the provisions of the proposed act and ignoring the stringent safeguards to protect the rights of the accused and deter the commission of abuse by law enforcement agents.
Unable to lock down her lips, at least momentarily by reason of the pandemic, she could not focus on her laudable efforts to help the needy in this present crisis. She has to unleash a torrent of criticism against the Duterte administration on its response to COVID-19, which is either untrue or misplaced, if not ignorant.
She claims the government failed to act urgently at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, adding that it has been complacent and chose to dilly-dally in the cancellation of flights from China, then the epicenter of the disease. Absolutely false. On 31 January 2020, the very day that there was a first confirmed death from COVID-19, the President ordered a travel ban on all travelers coming from Wuhan City and Hubei province, China where the deadly virus is said to have originated. On 2 February, the President expanded the travel ban to include all nationalities, except Filipino citizens and holders of Permanent Resident Visa issued by the Philippine Government, directly coming from China and its Special Administrative Regions.
Thereafter, the President acted swiftly and decisively imposing community quarantine and safety distancing protocols in the region to prevent the spread of the virus. VP Leni criticizes the presence of the military that assisted the police in implementing the safety protocols. She says people are afraid to see them. Baloney! She is creating fear in the people’s minds when there is none.
What she has is a self-created phantom fear. For her information, many countries of the world, which have imposed lockdowns, have tapped law enforcement forces to implement the safety protocols. Just the other day, the Australian government sent 1,000 troops to Melbourne to contain the spread of the coronavirus as it fears the coming of a second wave. Two weeks ago, New Zealand beefed up its quarantine facilities and its borders with defense forces when two individuals infected with coronavirus slipped and moved around the country.
Is she not reading the news about the World Bank’s praising the decisiveness of President Duterte in banning foreign travelers from entering the country without which there could have been 100,000 deaths due to the transmission of infection? Has she not also not read about the World Health Organization, as well as experts and scientists, advising the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) that 8.3 million Filipinos could have perished if the President did not order a lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus? Where was she all those times?
VP Leni, while conceding that the imposed lockdown was timely, complains about the government not using the time to prepare the supply of PPE (personal protective equipment), the lack of transport and the increase of our quarantine testing centers — and strengthening of our testing capacities. Here again is the Robredo disconnect. On the transport, the government made available bus services and army trucks during the MECG (modified enhanced community quarantine). Those private companies with shuttles ferried their employees. Those who did not have private shuttle buses were told not to operate, but just the same they let their employees report for work. Necessarily, those workers and employees will have difficulty in reaching their workplace due to the scarcity of mass transport. As to the PPE, their purchase was ordered on time, but there was a world shortage due to the high rate of demand from other countries, resulting in the delay in their importation, but now we are flooded with high-quality PPE resulting in giving more protection to our health workers. Of late there has been no reported deaths among them. As to the quarantine centers, the whining VP seems to be unaware if not totally ignorant that we have already many quarantine centers, e.g. Philippine Arena Complex, Philippine Sports Complex, ASEAN Convention Center, Filinvest Tent, New Clark City Convention, Ninoy Aquino Stadium, PICC Forum, the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, World Trade Center Manila and Alonte Sports Arena. All these were built during the community quarantine. We have 67 certified COVID-testing laboratories all over the Philippines. We have reached our testing capacity to 50,000 a day contrary to VP Leni’s 15,000. (Where in heaven’s name does she get her figures?)
She says the government should admit its failures, but she does not specify what failures except to imply that the lockdown should have been used to prepare the strengthening of our health system. But that is precisely what the government has done. Even prior to the first confirmed COVID death, the President convened the IATF, which immediately went to work. In fact, it was the one which recommended to PRRD the travel ban that effectively contained the spread of the virus. The government took care of feeding 18 million families of informal workers during the various stages of quarantine and an additional five million poor families. It has also caused the repatriation of thousands of OFW who lost their jobs, as well as effecting the return to their home provinces the locally stranded individuals in Metro Manila and elsewhere caught by the lockdown. The VP seems oblivious of these facts. She pleads for compassion for violators, but she is effectively encouraging the transgressors to go ahead with their merry ways endangering their health safety as well as others.
As former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who has earned her spurs in combatting three virus outbreaks during her term, who expressed her highest respect for PRRD, government officials and those at the forefront of the Philippines’ response against the coronavirus pandemic, has succinctly and correctly stated: “It is easy to criticize when you are seated at the sidelines” and not at the helm of the government, and not the “actual gladiators” in the arena of battle. Very apropos on VP Leni.
(To be continued)