‘Just Play’: Duterte wants classes postponed until COVID-19 vax becomes available

Screenshot from Radio Television Malacañang video
Screenshot from Radio Television Malacañang video

School classes shouldn’t resume unless a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, President Rodrigo Duterte said in a televised speech late last night.

Two weeks ago, the Department of Education (DepEd) announced that online classes may start in June, while “face-to-face” education will start on Aug. 24. The DepEd said the law mandates that classes should start by August.

However, Duterte doesn’t share the same opinion.

Read: PH school year may resume in June, but ‘face-to-face’ learning to start August

“Kids shouldn’t be allowed to go out yet. The opening of classes, that’s very [dangerous],” Duterte said in English and Filipino.

“I will not allow the opening of classes where the kids will be sitting side-by-side with each other. Let it be, don’t let them graduate. For this generation, there will be no doctors or engineers graduating. No one will graduate to become a doctor or engineer. Let’s not  have school yet. Just play,” he added.

“[Don’t start classes] unless I’m sure that they are really safe. It’s useless to be talking about the opening of classes. For me, it’s important that a vaccine has to be made first. Once the vaccine is available, OK,” he said.

It’s unclear when a COVID-19 vaccine will become available. Some experts say it could take a year to 18 months to have one, but others say there is a possibility that a vaccine against the coronavirus could never be made. Amid all these speculations, American drug company Moderna announced last week that they observed encouraging results from an initial trial of a vaccine. However, some scientists have questioned their announcement, saying that the company did not provide any data to back up their claim.

Read: Coronavirus layoffs to send home 43,000 OFWs by June

Meanwhile, Duterte ordered local government units to accept returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), some of whom couldn’t go home to their respective home towns because politicians are allegedly barring them from entering due to fears that they would spread COVID-19. The Department of Interior and Local Government said that at least 300,000 OFWs are expected to come home to the Philippines because the health crisis has led to massive layoffs in different parts of the globe.

The president told these local officials that the OFWs are not ill.

“You know, not all of them have gotten sick [of COVID-19]. And it is very cruel actually to deny them to go home. They are here in the hotels because they cannot go home— first, because of lack of money and resources,” he said.

He told mayors and governors that they do not have the right to bar anyone from entering their turfs.

“Nobody but nobody and only the national government can impose restrictions on travel. It’s the only agency that can declare that there’s an emergency of national interest, and that power of declaration is not shared by anybody, it’s [just] the national government,” he said.

“It is the constitutional right of people to travel and go home. Do not impede it, do not obstruct the movement of people because you run the risk of getting sued criminally… I’m ordering you to accept them, open the gates of your territories. Allow Filipinos to travel wherever they want,” Duterte added.

The president’s order comes after countless OFWs have complained to the media that they have been stuck for weeks in their respective quarantine facilities despite testing negative of COVID-19. The OFWs are stranded because at least 8,000 test result certificates have yet to be printed and released to them by the government, Rappler reports.


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