'Big brother' partnership to ensure closer anti-COVID 19 coordination - Galvez

The national government is not interfering with the local government units' (LGUs) response efforts to the coronavirus disease pandemic, the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 insisted Tuesday.

NTF chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. cleared this after Senator Risa Hontiveros filed a resolution calling for a Senate inquiry about President Duterte's designation of Cabinet secretaries in LGUs where high number of COVID-19 infections are being reported including Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal.

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) on COVID-19

Galvez explained the designation of the Cabinet secretaries in the LGUs mentioned was meant to ensure that national and local officials are on the same page when it comes to the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP), the overall pandemic response strategy of the government.

"Sa implementasyon ng ating concept, dapat makita natin na nag-ha-harmonize ang ating local government officials at ang national government. Kahit maganda po ang ating plano pero hindi nakikita ang implementasyon sa baba, wala pong mangyayari sa ating plano (In the implementation of our concept, we need to ensure harmony among the local and national government officials. Even if we have a good plan but it is not being implemented in the lower level, nothing will happen)," Galvez explained.

"Ang main objective ay para matulungan natin at maibigay natin ang kinakailangan sa baba. Ito ay hindi interference (The main objective is to help and provide the needs of those who are on the ground. This is not interference)," he added.

Hontiveros, a fierce critic of the government, said she wants to determine the logic behind the assignment of NTF and Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) officials to supervise the LGUs' COVID-19 response.

"This is toxic micromanagement. There are even reports that Cabinet members intervene at the barangay level," she said.

The senator was questioning Duterte's motive since she emphasized that most of the Cabinet officials are not health experts, and their designation could instead hamper the operation of the local chief executives.

"Baka sila pa ang turuan ng mga mayors (The mayors may be the ones to teach them some lessons)," Hontiveros said.

Based on IATF Resolution No. 62 issued last August 12, at least 27 Cabinet officials were assigned in the 16 cities and one municipality in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal "to further operationalize the national government-enabled, local government-led, and people-centered response against COVID-19."

It said the IATF and NTF members were assigned "to provide stronger support to local government units with areas identified with high community transmission, inasmuch as to strictly monitor health system performance, critical care capacity, and stringent compliance to surveillance, isolation and treatment protocols."

The Cabinet officials tasked to monitor the LGUs are being led by IATF chairperson and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who was assigned in Quezon City with Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles; Galvez, who was instructed to monitor Paranaque City; and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who was ordered to oversee the operations in Cavite.