By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
The Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has denied reports that the government has issued an order to stop reporting deaths related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), saying the public has the right to know the truth about the pandemic.
Cabinet Secretary and IATF spokesman Karlo Nograles made the statement after broadcast journalist Arnold Clavio posted screenshots of a conversation with a health worker who cited a mayor saying government hospitals were told not to give a census of COVID-19 fatalities.
In his virtual presser, Nograles echoed the Department of Health’s (DOH’s) response to Clavio that the government never ordered to conceal the COVID-19 death toll.
“Hindi po ito totoo… Wala pong ganitong polisiya ang inyong pamahalaan (This is false. The government never issued such a policy),” he said on Easter Sunday.
According to Nograles, various agencies regularly appear on media to give updates on the government’s response to COVID-19 because it was to give the public facts relative to the pandemic.
“Tuloy-tuloy po ang pagbibigay ng balita ukol sa COVID-19 response dahil alam po namin na mahalaga po ito para sa inyo (We continuously give updates about the COVID-19 response because we know how important it is to you),” he said.
“This outbreak concerns all of us, so we recognize that it is our responsibility to give you the facts, all the facts, and nothing but the facts. You deserve nothing less,” he added.
The Palace official advised the public to be discerning and responsible when using social media.
“Our efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak must be complemented by our efforts to contain misinformation and disinformation. Lalo na pagdating sa mga balita (Especially when it comes to news) involving our health, about possible remedies for the diseases and similar unsubstantiated claims,” Nograles said.
Up to NBI
In a separate text message, Panelo said it was up to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the allegations or even charge those behind the alleged suppresion of COVID-19 related information, particularly the death toll.
“We will leave that to the NBI,” he said.
In his statement, Panelo reiterated President Duterte’s order to government offices to be transparent to the Filipino people particularly during the present crisis.
He added that the government has no reason to conceal the actual number of COVID-19 deaths.
“Such allegation against the government is absolutely bereft of logic as well as of common sense. What would the government get from concealing the actual number of deaths due to COVID-19?” Panelo said.
“The government is precisely interested in knowing the number of deaths so that we will know the status of our fight against the coronavirus and we can undertake measures to improve our health system. Obviously, it’s false news,” he added.
Nograles likewise echoed the response of East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) to Clavio, denying the journo’s claim that the hospital was asking for donations of body bags because they were already running out of it.
According to the former lawmaker, although the number of body bags was dwindling, the EAMC has a steady supply of the product.
Nograles, however, advised the public not to jump to conclusions about the situation.
“Kasi kung pangunahan mo, eh tapos hindi mo naman alam na may mekanismo at hindi mo naman alam na may parating naman na mga supply… Nakakabigay lang ng concern sa mga tao (When you preempt any announcement but you don’t know that there was a mechanism in place and you don’t know that there is a supply coming, you just create unnecessary concerns),” he said.
He also assured that hospitals can always approach the government and ask for assistance if necessary.
“Kung may needs naman ang ospital, agad naman nagre-respond ang ating mga task groups (If the hospital needs something, our task groups readily respond),” Nograles said.