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Palace defends assigning Cabinet execs to monitor gov’t response in COVID-19 hotspots


Malacañang on Friday defended the strategy of assigning Cabinet members to oversee the implementation of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in areas with widespread community transmission.

The policymaking Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) earlier tasked Cabinet members to “provide stronger support” to local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal.

According to the IATF, the Cabinet officials must strictly monitor health system performance, critical care capacity, and stringent compliance to surveillance, isolation, and treatment protocols in their respective assignment areas.

“We understand the concerns of certain quarters to have health experts guide local government units in the execution of their plans,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

“We, however, have to stress that public health officers and health experts are one part of the whole-of-government approach.”

Roque underscored the importance of close coordination between the national government and LGUs and to harmonize the policies being crafted by the IATF and the operational framework that is being implemented on the ground.

“We have to ensure that the operational aspect of the National Action Plan Against COVID-19 will be properly implemented down to the barangays,” he said.

‘Big brothers,’ ‘big sisters’

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the government's COVID-19 response, on Thursday said the Cabinet members would serve as “big brothers” and “big sisters” to local chief executives in the fight against the pandemic.

Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal were placed under modified enhanced community quarantine or stricter lockdown from August 4 to 18. President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to announce the new quarantine classifications on August 17. 

But Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon reminded Cabinet members to be careful not to overstep local autonomy in exercising their functions.

In a statement, Drilon pointed out that the term “Big Brother,” coined by the author of the fiction novel “1984,” refers to a supreme authority in a totalitarian society.

The Senate leader also underscored that Duterte is allowed by the Constitution to exercise “general supervision,” not to control local government units.

“We cannot take away some powers or freedom in the name of war against COVID-19. The LGUs should be allowed to perform its functions with full autonomy,” Drilon said. — RSJ, GMA News