MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday night defended anew his appointment of retired military officials as the government’s pandemic response managers, saying one does not necessarily need to be a medical professional to effectively secure deals to purchase Covid-19 vaccines.
In a pre-recorded speech, Duterte said he needed someone with essential negotiation skills to lead efforts to purchase Covid-19 vaccines from foreign pharmaceutical firms.
“Kaya nagtatanong ‘Bakit ka masyadong attached sa military’? Wala man alam ‘yan (There are many asking ‘Why are you so attached to the military? They know nothing’). This is a mechanical act. This is not a study of medicine. Ano ito, parang transaksyon sa negosyo (It’s like making transactions with businesses),” he said.
Duterte said that National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar, Carlito Galvez, was perfect for the job because he had such expertise.
“Kaya tinawag ko si Galvez para siya ang magdala (That’s why I asked Galvez to do it). You need not be a doctor here because you are transacting a business. It is not really a matter of medical science that you are talking of,” he added.
Besides Galvez, three other ex-military officers are leading the government’s Covid-19 response – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (NTF Chair), Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano (NTF Vice Chair), and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu (Cebu City Covid-19 Response Overseer).
On Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque explained that ex-military officers are leading the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) because they were also appointed as members of Duterte’s Cabinet.
He also noted that former military officers were experts in terms of logistics.
“Wala naman pong na-appoint sa IATF outside of yung mga secretaries at mga namumuno ng opisina. Totoo po maraming mga military pero isang dahilan po kung bakit nagtitiwala ang ating Presidente ay dahil magaling po sa logistics ang ating mga military (No one has been appointed to the IATF outside of the secretaries and heads of office. There is indeed a lot of military who are members but one reason why the President trusts them is that the military excels in logistics),” Roque said.
Roque also noted that Galvez has a master’s degree in Project Management major in System Modelling and Project Scheduling from the University of New South Wales in Australia.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo also defended Galvez and other members of the IATF-EID, describing them as “competent in the field.”
He said replacing IATF officials would mean replacing them with inexperienced leaders.
“Nagkaroon na nga ng karanasan e tapos sasabihin ni Senador Ping Lacson ‘palitan natin’. Susmaryosep. Papalitan? Sino ipapalit mo? Yung mga walang karanasan? Mago-on the job training nanaman sila? Mag-isip ka naman, Ping (They already have experience and then Senator Ping goes ‘they should be replaced.’ Replace them? Who are you going to replace them with? Those without experience? Do they have to undergo on the job training? Think for a change, Ping),” he added.
Senators, particularly Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and Risa Hontiveros have both questioned the composition of the IATF-EID.
Hontiveros said IATF-EID leaders should be replaced with public health experts “who actually know how to handle a public health emergency.”
“The extreme call is to abolish the IATF but during a pandemic, an interagency body is necessary. It must be led by public health experts and epidemiologists. Not by military officers,” she said in a statement.
Lacson urged the government to replace pandemic response managers with “competent people.”
“Solution? How about getting competent people? How many opportunities were missed and lost? Who dropped the ball? Who is indecisive? Who has no sense of urgency? Who is making money even in the middle of a pandemic? Think for a change, Sal,” Lacson said. (PNA)