Hontiveros seeks Senate inquiry into designation of Cabinet secretaries to LGUs on COVID response

Senator Risa Hontiveros is calling for a Senate inquiry into the designation of Cabinet secretaries who are part of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to local government units (LGUs) in the National Capital Region (NCR), Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal to monitor their COVID-19 response.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
Sen. Risa Hontiveros (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Hontiveros, in filing Senate Resolution No. 495, said it is imperative that the Senate look into the rationale behind the IATF’s Resolution No. 62 as she expressed belief it is imprudent to assign these Cabinet members to supervise local government officials.

“This is toxic micromanagement. There are even reports that Cabinet members intervene at the barangay level,” Hontiveros said.

“The IATF members, while arguably experts in their respective fields, are not experts, nor do they have any experience in health system performance, critical care capacity, and surveillance, isolation, and treatment protocols,” she said.

“Baka sila pa nga ang turuan ng mga mayor (The mayors might have to teach them),” she added.

Hontiveros noted that the IATF itself is already burdened with controversies involving its policy decisions and pronouncements, accuracy and integrity of the data reported, and even some allegedly anomalous procurement-related transactions.

She said the Senate has previously raised concerns about the procurement of overpriced personal protective equipment (PPEs), the Department of Health’s (DOH) erroneous COVID-19 data, as well as the credibility of the IATF Chairperson Secretary Francisco Duque III, particularly his flip-flopping pronouncements on the wave of COVID-19 infections in the country.

The senator said these concerns should raise doubts on the feasibility of allowing IATF members to interfere with LGUs’ affairs.

“The members of the IATF, many of whom have no background in local governments or pandemic response, are unnecessarily overstepping. What the LGUs need is a coherent national COVID management strategy, not undue interference,” the senator said.

“Why is Secretary Harry Roque assigned to Pasay? Shouldn’t he be focusing on his job as a presidential spokesperson? And why is Sec. Duque assigned to Quezon City, when as Secretary of the DOH, he should be overseeing the overall management of the COVID-19 response?” she asked.

“And why is it after assigning Secretary (Karlo) Nograles to Quezon City, he said that QC residents can join the clinical trials of the vaccine that will come from Russia? Is that their plan? It seems there is no data or science considered for this decision,” Hontiveros said.

The lawmaker said it is imperative for the government to trust local government executives in coming up with a more strategic plan against COVID-19.