Some senators were not convinced with the need to assign Cabinet officials to local government units (LGUs) amid the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Members of the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases have been designated to specific LGUs under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) to give them "stronger support" and "further operationalize the national government-enabled, local government-led, and people-centered response against COVID-19."
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, however, said this would be "another layer of bureaucracy" that might just delay the LGUs' response to the health emergency.
He said LGUs could directly report to Presidential Adviser for Peace Process and National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr., who he believed was capable enough to carry out the national government's plans to address the pandemic.
"I would prefer na diretso na lang ang local government units kay General Galvez (I would prefer that LGUs report straight to Gen. Galvez). Dahil siya ang pwedeng mag-instruct at gumawa ng paraan para matulungan ang local government unit. (Because he can instruct and find ways to help LGUs)," Gatchalian said in an online interview Thursday.
For instance, Gatchalian expressed apparently uncertainty if Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Peña, who was designated for his home city Valenzuela, could immediately respond to their needs.
"At si Sec Dela Peña wala namang papel sa NTF (And Sec. Dela Peña has no active role in the NTF). So kung meron kaming hihingin sa kanya, pupunta rin siya kay General Galvez, might as well dumiretso na lang kami kay Gen. Galvez (if we will request something from him, he will still consult Gen. Galvez, then we might as well work directly with Gen. Galvez)," he raised.
"Kayang-kaya ni Gen Galvez 'yan (Gen. Galvez could do that himself)...Kilala naman na mabilis at may aksyon kaagad (He was known for his prompt actions)," he continued.
Senator Nancy Binay also questioned the competence of the Cabinet officials to support LGUs.
"Planong 'di masyado napag-isipan (This is a plan that has not been thought out). May kakayahan o kaya ba ng mga Cabinet Sec gampanan ang dagdag na trabaho (Are these Cabinet Secretaries capable or can they do the additional job given to them)?" Binay said on Twitter.
The senator further wrote: "#ThisMakesMePanic".
Malacañang said that local chief executives will remain the authorities over their respective COVID-19 response programs and that the Cabinet officials will merely support them in their implementation.
“Sila pa rin po ang mamumuno sa kani-kanilang mga siyudad at munisipyo (The local chief executives are still the ones who will lead in their own cities and municipalities),” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Thursday.
Under the resolution, the "support" from Cabinet officials include the strict monitoring of health system performance, critical care capacity, and stringent compliance to surveillance, isolation, and treatment protocols.