President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that if he had the “power,” he would end the COVID-19 pandemic despite being previously granted with emergency powers to reshuffle funds for the public health crisis.
The chief executive in his national address aired Monday night said that he would be the “last person” in the Philippines who would want to inflict suffering on Filipinos as he discussed the imposition of lockdowns in the country.
“I am reading again the newest bulletin (na) pinalabas ng IATF para sa mga ating enhanced or lockdown na ‘yan eh halos… Alam mo, I would be the last person—ako ang pinakahuling tao dito sa Pilipinas na magpapahirap sa Pilipino,” Duterte said.
“If only I had the power—kung nandiyan lang sa akin ‘yong poder na like a magic wand, na maalis kaagad itong problema natin, mawala, gagawin ko. I’m having a hard time. I’m grappling with the issue of COVID. It takes most of my time, actually,” he added.
Duterte last night announced that six provinces will revert to stricter quarantine measures next month in light of the case surge in the country.
However, there is still no announcement for the Greater Manila Area, which remains under the enhanced community quarantine until April 4.
The country has recorded its highest single-day tally of new COVID-19 cases on Monday with 10,016 infections, bringing the total to 731,894.
As of Tuesday, the Department of Health has recommended a one-week extension of the ECQ reimposed over the Greater Manila Area to curb the COVID-19 transmission.
‘You had resources’
When some Filipinos learned of Duterte wanting to have “powers” to end the pandemic, some responded that he has the means and resources as the sitting chief executive.
“You can’t magically end the pandemic but you can minimize its effects, with the resources na hiningi and were granted to you. Sir, pwede mong i-trace, i-prevent, i-isolate ang problema. Tama at timely na paggamit ng resources. Stop the rhetorics, focus on the job, Sir,” a Twitter user responded.
Test, trace and isolate are the key strategies recommended by the World Health Organization to successfully prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Test pertains to mass testing while trace refers to contact tracing people who are potentially infected with the virus. Isolate refers to effectively putting the infected in quarantine to prevent further infection.
Another Twitter user pointed out that Duterte has lots of chances to prevent the surge in COVID-19 cases by implementing strict travel bans early on, particularly on China, the country where the virus was reported to originate.
“Marami kang pagkakataong hindi palalain ito. Feb 2020 palang dapat sinara na ang borders, pero tinawag mong ‘xenophobia’. ‘Wag nang magdrama. Wala namang g*guhan,” he wrote.
A different online user said that Duterte could have appointed “correct people in the appropriate positions” so that the country could “control” the pandemic more.
“We didn’t ask you to end it because you are not God, although you like to play one. What we are asking is to do your job, put the correct people in the appropriate positions and be more competent so we can ‘control’ the pandemic like other ASEAN countries,” he said.
Duterte has appointed several former military officials to lead the government’s COVID-19 response, a public health crisis that warrants medical experts and health professionals at the helm of the emergency.
Another Twitter user recalled the president being granted emergency powers by the Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
“Di ba may pa special power ka from Congress last time??? Hahaha,” he wrote.
“Di ba kaya ka nga binigyan ng ‘special powers’ ng Congresso? Ano pa ba gusto mo?” another online user commented.
Duterte under the first Bayanihan to Heal As One Act was granted emergency powers to reprogram, reallocate and realign funds in the 2020 budget to be used for COVID-19 response.
He signed this into law on March 24, 2020.
This law also gave him the privilege to stop projects, projects or activities under the executive department, as well as government corporations, and use the savings to fund the government’s response against the viral disease.
Duterte likewise has the power to direct the operation of privately-owned hospitals, medical facilities, and other establishments to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas or become quarantine centers, medical and aid centers or temporary health facilities.
He was also given the privilege to buy goods, including personal protective equipment, thermometers, cleaning agents and medicine for health facilities.
The second part of the law, the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act, does not extend the president’s powers. It has lapsed after Dec. 19, 2020, pursuant to Section 2 of the law.