By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The Philippine government might only be praising itself in claiming that the country is winning the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Panfilo Lacson said on Tuesday.
While he echoed doubts on the World Health Organization (WHO) amid the global health crisis, Lacson was still not convinced with pronouncements from Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque and other officials that the country is already succeeding in controlling the spread of the coronavirus disease.
Roque disputed the report showing that the Philippines has the fastest spike of COVID-19 infections in the Western Pacific region within two weeks, having the highest number of cases among 22 countries. The WHO has disputed that it released the data showing the Philippines having the fastest rise in COVID-19 infections in the Western Pacific region.
“The WHO has its own credibility problems in relation to the handling of the [COVID-19] pandemic and therefore it’s pronouncements should not be taken seriously, not even at face value,” Lacson said in a text message.
“On the other hand, for the government to say that the country is winning its fight against the coronavirus is nothing better than patting itself on the back,” he pointed out.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said while the Roque maybe correct, other areas of the country have yet to see victory in the fight against COVID-19.
“Perhaps, we’re winning the war, that’s true. But there are areas that we’re not — that we are not successful yet,” Sotto said in a teleconference with reporters.
Sotto recalled his earlier reaction on the WHO data, saying there might be something “very wrong” with how the government handles the health crisis. Echoing Lacson, he said this could also apply to the WHO as he cited instances of its “inaccuracy.”
“It’s a double-bladed statement because something could be very wrong with the stat[istics]s of WHO, and something could be wrong also with our health protocols and the way we are running it,” he said.
Also questioning the claim was opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros who called on authorities to be honest about the real COVID-19 situation in the country.
“Hindi natin matatalo ang pandemiya kung hindi tayo magiging honest sa mga sarili natin (We will not win against this pandemic if we are not being honest with ourselves),” Hontiveros said.
“Paano tayo ‘winning’ kung may mahigit 36,000 kaso na tayo ng COVID-19, may 7.3 milyong Pilipinong walang trabaho, at kulang tayo sa proteksyon at suporta sa mga doktor at health workers (How are we ‘winning’ when we have over 36,000 COVID-19 cases, when we have 7.3 million jobless Filipinos, and when we do not support and protect our doctors and health workers enough)? To ‘win’ against COVID-19, first we need to be honest,” she added.
Senator Francis Pangilinan also expressed disbelief with the executive department’s pronouncement.
“Mas maniniwala ako sa WHO (I would believe the WHO more),” he said.
Senator Imee Marcos, for her part, said the sudden increase in COVID-19 cases could be attributed to the recent easing of quarantine rules and resumption of the economy.
“First, it has to be noted that we have just started to re-open the economy two weeks ago and that this pattern, as shown in many other countries, is typical at the outset of re-opening,” Marcos said.
“I think the WHO is simply warning the Philippines that we have not been exempted from this pattern of COVID-19 resurgence immediately after re-opening the economy. And that we should not be complacent and we must remain vigilant in enforcing safety protocols in the midst of the continuing threat of the virus. We need to do this to win the war against COVID-19,” she added.
During the government’s Laging Handa public briefing Tuesday, the WHO denied that it gave the assessment to the Philippines.
Aside from the WHO data, Roque also touted that the government has disproved the estimates by experts at the University of the Philippines that the infections would hit 40,000 by the end of June.
As of June 29, there are already 36,438 COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, with the Department of Health (DOH) reporting 985 new cases on Monday.