De Lima scores Duterte gov’t for inaction on vaccine hesitancy of Filipinos

Published August 11, 2021, 4:55 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Leila de Lima on Wednesday scored anew the Duterte administration for refusing to address vaccine hesitancy among Filipinos and instead blaming them instead of pushing for a campaign that would help build public trust on the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines.

“Children are getting sick with the Delta variant and the presidential mouthpiece is still spewing poison from his perch in Malacanang. Bahala na daw ang COVID-19 sa mga ayaw magpabakuna (And they’re saying they would just leave those who refuse vaccination at the mercy of the virus).

The government is blatantly refusing to address vaccine hesitancy. Anti-‘pasaway’ kasi ang alam lang nilang na response, hindi anti-COVID (they only know how to respond to those who adamantly refuse, but they have no knowledge of anti-COVID response),” De Lima said in a statement.

De Lima said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque should be reminded it is high time that the government exert effort to rebuild people’s trust on vaccines after creating a public fear on the country’s vaccination program.

She pointed out it was the Duterte administration who let Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta grandstand on the Dengvaxia issue, which scared off parents from availing free vaccines to protect their children from life-threatening diseases.

“Baka naman panahon na para kumbinsihin ninyo uli ang taumbayan na epektibo ang mga bakuna pagkatapos ninyo silang takutin sa inimbento ninyong panganib ng Dengvaxia para lang siraan ang (I think it’s time to convince the public again on the efficacy of getting vaccinated after you scared them into thinking of the dangers of Dengvaxia drug just to destroy the) Aquino administration,” the senator said.

At the same time, De Lima criticized the government over its weak contact tracing efforts saying it remains to be the weakest link in the Philippine’s COVID-19 response.

“When the government’s contact tracing czar admitted in May of this year that contact tracing remains the weakest link in the COVID-19 response, it should have been enough of a wakeup call to get this government’s priorities straight,” the lawmaker pointed out.

“However, it is now nearly 17 full months since the first lockdown and past several surges of infection, yet this fact, along with many other medical data from neighboring countries, has been disregarded to the point of it now seeming like an outright dereliction of public duty,” she lamented.

With the Delta variant now poised to infect thousands of Filipinos, De Lima said there is no doubt that the government remains to be ill-informed, ill-prepared and ill-advised.

“Tatlong salita lamang yan (We only need three things): Test-Trace-Treat. Pero hanggang ngayon eh puro lockdown saka curfew pa rin ang alam niyo. Bakit? May oras lang ba ng paglabas ang COVID (But until now the government’s solution is lockdown and curfew. Why? Does COVID on a specific time)?” she pointed out.

She said the Commission on Audit’s (COA) report that P29.256-million intended for the hiring, training, monitoring, travel and operational expenses of contact tracers were unspent is clear proof of gross negligence on the part of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“With their contracts having lapsed last July, it’s no wonder why we are here again enduring another lockdown,” she said.

“This and the fact that billions of Bayanihan 1 and 2 funds were unspent and failed to reach our people in the form of ayuda and other social services raises one question: Saan niyo ba balak gastusin ang perang inutang? (Where do you plan to use the funds you borrowed)?” she asked.

“Aantayin niyo pa ba ang 2022 kung kailan nakataya na ang mga posisyon niyo sa susunod na halalan? Inuulit ko, ngayon kayo kailangan ng bayan (Will you wait for 2022 when your positions are already at stake in the elections? I repeat, the nation needs you now),” she reiterated.