The Philippine government today defended its decision to appoint former military men to lead their campaign against COVID-19, saying that their discipline and obedience will enable them to solve the global health crisis.
President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday appointed Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. as the government’s “chief implementer” of its anti-COVID-19 drive. Galvez will be responsible for implementing the guidelines of the Health Department’s Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF). Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año were appointed as the campaign’s chair and vice-chair, respectively.
Some netizens, however, have pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic is a health emergency, and that former military generals should not be leading the campaign.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo came to Duterte’s defense, and said in a statement that the three men were appointed to lead the campaign because of their “discipline, obedience to superiors, training in organization, tactical strategies in fighting the enemies of the state, and thorough preparedness in organization.”
Despite their lack of medical training, Panelo said the three “are not embroiled in bureaucratic rigmaroles. They abhor useless debates, they are silent workers, not voracious talkers. They act without fanfare. They get things done.”
“The strict implementation of home quarantine is a must, so is the maintenance of peace and order to make effective the fight against the coronavirus that has placed the nation on the precipice of destruction and death,” he added.
Panelo said this a few days after Senator Koko Pimentel breached his own quarantine to bring his pregnant wife to Makati Medical Center, an act that earned him widespread public criticism. Another pro-Duterte lawmaker, Rep. Eric Yap, also chose not to go into self-quarantine before he tested positive for COVID-19, and even attended meetings in the House of Representatives and Malacañang Palace. The Department of Health recommends that PUIs such as Pimentel and Yap undergo a 14-day self-quarantine to prevent the spread of the disease.
Panelo has been hesitant to call out Pimentel and Yap, saying that an investigation has to be done first “to ascertain the true facts” behind their quarantine breaches.
Meanwhile, Panelo said that the government needs the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to implement the health measures that the IATF has established.
“With high and senior ex-military men at the helm of the implementing organizations, the officers as well as the rank and file of the PNP and the AFP will necessarily follow the orders coming from them, issued by the Commander-in-Chief, without question and with impartiality in the strict implementation of the protocols, guidelines, and procedures established by the national government,” Panelo said.
“They will spare no one nor exempt anyone, whether in the private sector or in the government, in applying the law as well as the restrictions imposed by the Constitution in times of national emergency.”
Duterte has placed the entire island of Luzon on lockdown, which is expected to end on April 13. The Philippines has currently 707 COVID-19 cases, with 45 deaths. At least nine of those who died are doctors.