Chief presidential legal counsel Atty. Salvador Panelo.
By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — Local government units, especially the barangays, should take the lead in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, according to chief presidential legal counsel Atty. Salvador Panelo in his daily online program Counterpoint, where he stressed that the recent spike in the Covid cases are due to the complacency of the people as well as local officials who appear to be half-heartedly implementing the government-imposed minimum health safety protocols.
“First, we relaxed the restrictions. Before people were not allowed to go out, most observed work from home but recently restaurants and events were allowed. When we opened the economy, you also open the risk of transmission,” Panelo noted.
He said the public should heed the call of experts to strictly follow the minimum health protocols to prevent contracting the virus.
But in this the chief presidential legal counsel said that based on reports, many of the citizenries are disregarding the health protocols and restrictions hence the increase in the number of infections in several areas across the country, particularly in Metro Manila and outlying provinces as well as highly urbanized centers.
“In short, we are our own creators of either sickness or death, if we follow protocols, we will be free from coronavirus pandemic, we will always be healthy,” he stressed.
“If we cannot stop the spike of the virus, it is possible that we may even surpass the Covid cases during its peak in July, August and September last year. We need to stop the trend, otherwise, cases will keep on increasing,” he added.
According to Panelo, there is an abrupt increase in the number of cases because of the mobility of the people and this is why he has called on everybody to practice the wearing of masks and face shields and observing the health protocols.
“We should not get tired of observing these minimum health protocols, otherwise, we will also contract the virus,” he said.
Panelo likewise disclosed that at least 19 health facilities are now at a critical level, wherein 85 percent of the bed capacity is occupied by patients with Covid-19.
“These hospitals can only accommodate 15 percent more Covid-19 patients and aside from the pandemic, the hospitals need to attend to other illnesses like kidney and heart diseases,” he said.
The Malacañang official said he supported the statement of health secretary Francisco Duque III after the latter advised that LGUs need to intensify their response and community efforts against Covid-19.
“Secretary Duque is encouraging all LGUs to intensify their campaign against Covid-19. LGUs need to implement preventive interventions. They need to ensure early detection by way of aggressive finding of active cases through contact tracing,” he concluded.
In reaction, however, a number of senators said that the government should stick to its goal of a nationwide vaccination program even as it races against the increasing numbers of Covid-19 infections in the country.
Veteran senator Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson underscored that the administration should be ‘transparent’ in setting up plans for the program which originally targets the immunization of some 60 to 70 million Filipinos to achieve herd immunity.
Lacson lambasted the unrealistic figures the government has been releasing regarding the vaccination rollout, saying it is giving the people ‘false hopes’.
“What we want is for the government to remain true. It should give a low-down to the Filipino people so we do not need to guess. If they said that the vaccine will arrive at this date then it should arrive as scheduled. If they said that they can inoculate this much daily then they should commit to it. They should not say that they will vaccinate 450,000 by April when we all know that they are inoculating 4,000 to 5,000 people a day,” he told reporters during a virtual press conference.
“We’re giving our people false hopes. Shouldn’t we be realistic? They should not keep promising things that they cannot deliver because it makes people more frustrated,” he further stated.
Lacson also emphasized the important role of the private sector which should be empowered in the procurement of vaccines. It should be treated as a ‘partner’ and not a ‘competitor’ that they should join hands with the government in procuring the much-needed vaccines for our people.
For her part, lady senator Ana Theresia ‘Risa’ Hontiveros lamented the slow pace of the inoculation of healthcare workers, saying it paints a ‘worrisome prospect’ for most sectors included in the vaccination priority list.
Hontiveros revealed that health officials as well as those from other concerned agencies cannot take their ‘sweet time’ with the vaccination program so she is urging government authorities to commit to a ‘serious’ timeframe for the program’s completion.
“When is the goal date to finish the vaccination of the health workers? Will it be a surprise? We need a genuine commitment from the NTF (National Task Force Against Covid-19),” she ended by saying. (AI/MTVN)