Resign from the Senate and take on the job of leading the government’s anti-coronavirus disease measures.
This was the challenge posed by the President’s chief legal counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo to Senator Panfilo Lacson on Monday following the latter’s call for the Duterte administration to employ “drastic and innovative strategies” to arrest the continuing rise in Covid-19 cases in the country.
“Assuming that the government’s program is wrong, what is it, Senator Ping? What are those drastic and innovative strategies? Enumerate them. If you are that good, then present them so that we can do them,” the Palace official said during his “Counterpoint” online show.
“Resign as a senator and offer yourself, let’s see if you are that good,” Panelo added, hitting back at Lacson’s earlier pronouncement that officials at the forefront of the government’s anti-pandemic initiatives must be axed and replaced with “competent people.”
“How are we to know the replacements are competent people? Remember, there are no so-called competent people here in the Philippines or any other part of the world (against Covid-19) because we really don’t know how to deal with this. Because we’ve never faced this before. We learn as we go along,” he said.
Officials such as Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and National Task Force Against Covid-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Panelo insists, are the best persons for the jobs as they are “gaining experience” in battling the dreaded viral respiratory disease.
“They’re becoming competent in this field. Who are we going to replace them with? Since you seem very good, I’ll challenge you. Why not do it yourself? Why don’t you make an offer? Why don’t you lead the rollout of this national program? Resign and offer yourself. Let’s see how competent you are. You will be welcomed to the administration,” Panelo challenged Lacson.
Money not pocketed
He likewise clarified allegations that some agencies and people in government have pocketed money from the loans granted the country for the acquisition of Covid-19 vaccines.
“How many times do I have to tell you, the money loaned from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank will go straight to the (vaccine) manufacturers. No one is making money from it,” Panelo said.
“He also called out the ‘slow’ roll out of the vaccination program. What is there to roll out when there is no available vaccine supply yet? We have yet to receive the vaccines we bought. Those that arrived, they’re donations from Sinovac and the Covax facility and they’ve been distributed,” stressed Panelo.
“That’s the problem. It’s so easy to hurl accusations, criticisms. It’s so easy when you’re not the one thinking of every possible way to address the problem,” he concluded.