Palace defends IATF decision to assign Cabinet members to assist LGUs in fighting virus

Malacañang on Monday defended the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to assign "big brothers" and "big sisters" to support local government units (LGUs) in the fight against COVID-19, saying members of the IATF are doing their best to address the pandemic.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque (CAMILLE ANTE / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after Sen. Francis Pangilinan questioned the designation of Cabinet officials as "big brothers" of LGUs, saying what they need are competent and upright national government leaders.

Roque slammed Pangilinan and dismissed his remarks as politicizing the move of the IATF to delegate Cabinet members to support areas that are currently under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

"Alam niyo naman malapit na ang eleksyon, reelectionist ito si Sen. Pangilinan (You know that elections are coming near and Sen. Pangilinan is eligible for reelection)," he said.

"Hindi ako nagtataka sa mga maanghang na salita niya (I'm not surprised by his remarks)," he added.

Roque hit Pangilinan's party, the Liberal Party, saying they pale in comparison when it comes to addressing national emergencies.

"If we will go with the track record of his own party in similar disasters, his own party had a dismal performance," he said.

According to Roque, the IATF is doing its best to address the pandemic even with the possibility that they may bring the disease to their homes in the process.

"Everyone is doing their best. Dahil kapag tayo po ay pumalya, baka sariling pamilya rin po namin ang mag-suffer sa COVID (Because if we fail, our own families will be the ones who will suffer)," he said.

"Wala pong such a thing na natutulog sa pansitan dahil lahat po tayo (There's no such thing as dilly-dallying because all of us are) under threat from COVID. We all have families, we all have to take care of them, so all members of the IATF give it their best shot because they know, eventually, it may enter their homes," he added.

In an interview with CNN Philippines last week, IATF co-chairperson and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said assigning Cabinet members as "big brothers" to LGUs was a good plan.

"Actually it's a good plan because pagdating sa (when it comes to the) IATF, the members who are assigned per city are IATF members. So when we come to our IATF meetings, we can bring our experiences, also in terms of our coordination with our adopted LGUs," he said.

"That way, mas efficient din po (it's also more efficient) and gives everyone a new perspective. I think new perspectives are important especially in this fight against COVID-19," he added.

According to Nograles, the arrangement was a consensus among members of the IATF, saying the body wanted to enhance its mechanisms and not go with the usual.

"Obviously we don't want 'business as usual', we want to step up our efforts," he said.