Press Release
June 3, 2020

Have special powers really helped gov't fight coronavirus, Senator asks

"Dahil sa Bayanihan Act ay isinuko na ng Kongreso ang kaniyang 'power of the purse.' Kaya kailangang bantayang maigi kung saan napupunta ang pera."

This was the statement of Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday as she called for a rigorous assessment of the success or lack thereof of its full campaign against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, before passing Bayanihan to Recover as One bill.

"We should have established sufficient infrastructure and mustered enough human resources to adequately respond to this health crisis. However, this is clearly not the case," she said.

In a privilege speech, Hontiveros pointed out that despite the passage of the Bayanihan Law or Republic Act No. 11469 granting emergency powers to the President, the government has failed to meet its health and economic relief targets, as evidenced by massive backlogs, slow contact tracing efforts, and delays in the release of test results to persons under quarantine or monitoring.

"Apat na buwan na ang nakakaraan. Bilyon-bilyon ang pondo na nasa kamay ng pamahalaan at malawak ang kapangyarihan na ibinigay natin sa Pangulo. Pero hanggang ngayon, wala pa rin tayong pinangako nilang 30,000 tests per day. Hindi rin malinaw kung naflatten na ba ang curve ng pandemiya," she said.

The Senator called out the Department of Health (DOH) for failing to present to the public comprehensive, reliable and accurate data on the pandemic. "Naguguluhan na ang publiko at mismong policy makers sa ibinibigay na datos. Biglang may "fresh cases," at may new cases pero old na raw. For government to produce the right policies, we have to have the right data in our hands," she said.

Hontiveros also criticized the health agency for the purchase of overpriced personal protective equipment (PPEs) and testing kits as revealed by other Senators.

"Paano natin mapagkakatiwalaan ang gobyerno na gamitin sa maayos ang pera ng bayan kung may mga taong walang konsensiyang pinagkakakitaan ang pandemyang ito?" she said.

She then questioned the lifting of restrictions under the General Community Quarantine when flattening of the epidemic curve unclear. This will just endanger the lives of the employees as they go back to work. "Now that we have shifted to GCQ and asked them to go back to work without mass testing and mandatory and demandable safety at work protocols, we are putting their lives at risk."

Hontiveros then urged the government to address these 'major flaws' first as the country transitions to a new and better normal. She challenged the government to step-up and employ the "whole of society" approach to overcome this crisis: include more health professionals and scientists and retract police and military from the forefront; get the involvement of development workers, work with the private sector; capacitate and empower local government units and communities; and capacitate local resources such as giving Kaligtasan Tanods information and education functions.

Likewise, Hontiveros said that the health response measures must also include a sound economic and fiscal plan to ensure immediate recovery and avoid widespread loss of jobs and financial opportunities. But whatever efforts the government will carry out to restart the economy, it must come with appropriate protection for our people. Otherwise, this will not just deprive people of their livelihood but also of their right to live.

"Health and economic safeguards must be put in place before we send them out to what is now called the new normal. Let our rallying cry be: Save lives, save jobs," she concluded.

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