By Hannah Torregoza
“Go away,” opposition senators led by Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Thursday told politicians exploiting the country’s precarious situation as it battles the COVID-19 virus to advance their political agenda.
Drilon and senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros said they believe it is not red tape that is hampering the immediate distribution of relief to millions of poor families, but the upcoming 2022 presidential campaign.
The senators said presidential “wannabes” should stop using the COVID-19 crisis to advance their political ambitions.
“It saddens us that there are people who could be so heartless and power-hungry so as to take advantage of this crisis to advance their political ambition,” they said.
“To presidential wannabes, hands off, please. Go away. We all know what happens when political campaign gets in the way: the distribution of disaster aid is politicized and the bureaucracy is politicized.
“Worse, national and local officials who have shown initiative and innovation in responding to the COVID-19 crisis are politicized, criticized, and crucified, which would only add to the suffering of our countrymen and women,” they added.
The minority bloc appealed to private organizations, corporations, and institutions not to let themselves be used for obvious political propaganda.
“When charity is politicized, it stinks. In times like this, it kills,” they said.
The group also said they are outraged by the plan of a Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) official to have Vice President Leni Robredo investigated for her efforts to extend assistance to Filipinos struggling during this time of national crisis just because these might embarrass the government.
PACC Commissioner Manuelito Luna earlier asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate Robredo for “illegal solicitations” and for supposedly competing with the government’s efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
Luna questioned Robredo’s programs providing free shuttle service, dormitories, and personal protective equipment (PPEs) to health workers.
“The Vice President’s initiatives in helping out our health workers and frontliners complement the efforts of the national government,” Hontiveros pointed out.
“Hindi kumpetisyon ang pagtulong. Hindi kailangan ng inggitan ngayon. Ang talo kasi dito ay ang mga Pilipinong naghihingalo sa gitna ng COVID-19 crisis,” she said.
(Helping is not competition. There is no need to be envious. The losers here are the Filipinos suffering in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.)
Pangilinan also said he doesn’t understand what the Duterte government’s beef was all about, especially when all national and local leaders are doing their best to complement the government’s efforts to cope with the current crisis.
“’Di ba bayanihan nga? Walang monopolyo sa pagtulong. Hindi nakikipag-contest si VP Leni. Pinupunan niya ang mga pagkukulang ng pamahalaan,” Pangilinan said.
(Didn’t we ask for bayanihan? No one has the monopoly of helping. VP Leni is not competing in any contests. She is just trying to fill the government’s gaps.)
“Kahit opisina namin, inuulan ng mga request para sa PPEs at kung anu-ano pang essentials dahil alam nilang tumutulong kami kay VP.
(Even our office is being requested for PPEs and other essentials because they know we are helping the VP.)
“Pwede ba, PACC, tumulong na lang kayo? Huwag nyo na dagdagan ang kapalpakan. Hindi kayo nakakatulong. Magsi-ayos kayo,” Pangilinan said. (PACC, can’t you just help? Don’t add to your blunders. You’re not helping. Shape up.)
The minority bloc further reiterated the need to be at the forefront in responding to the needs and demands of the Filipino people during this trying time in the nation’s history.
“We need to ensure that help is on the way even under extraordinary circumstances. We hope the PACC and everyone in government see it that way too,” the Senate minority bloc emphasized.