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Hontiveros seeks probe on IATF's 'toxic micromanagement' of LGUs' COVID-19 response

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday sought a Senate investigation on the designation of Cabinet members as "big brothers and big sisters" of local government officials in the implementation of their COVID-19 response efforts.

Hontiveros filed Senate Resolution No. 495 seeking the scrutiny of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases' (IATF) Resolution No. 62, which assigned national government officials to "provide stronger support" in Metro Manila and nearby provinces with widespread community transmission of COVID-19.

"This is toxic micromanagement. There are even reports that cabinet members intervene at the barangay level,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

"The IATF members, while arguably experts in their respective fields, are not experts nor do they have any experience in health system performance, critical care capacity, and surveillance, isolation, and treatment protocols. Baka sila pa nga ang turuan ng mga mayor," she added.

Further, Hontiveros said the move was not appropriate as she pointed out that IATF itself, as a body, has been previously "saddled with controversies involving its policy decisions and pronouncements, the accuracy and integrity of the data reported, and even some allegedly anomalous procurement-related transactions."

Instead of undue interference, a national strategy for the management of COVID-19 is needed, the senator said.

"Bakit si Sec. Harry Roque naka-assign sa Pasay? Shouldn’t he be focusing on his job as a presidential spokesperson? At bakit si Sec. Duque sa Quezon City, when as Secretary of the Department of Health, he should be overseeing the overall management of the COVID-19 response?" Hontiveros asked.

Roque previously said the assignment of Cabinet secretaries was based on the location of their residences.

"Nag-assign lang po ng mga miyembro ng Gabinete kada siyudad [dahil] unang-una doon sila nakatira," he said.

"Hindi po 'yan mensahe na may problema ang mga LGUs. Ito po ay mensahe na kung ano pa ang kinakailangan ng mga lokal na pamahalaan, narito po ang national government, narito po ang national IATF para tumulong," he added.

Another member of the minority bloc, Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, also disagreed with the IATF's move as he warned that this could further slow down processes.

"I don’t see how giving the national government more powers over the LGUs will help. It will be another layer in the already highly-centralized yet ineffective COVID-19 response," Pangilinan said in a separate statement.

"Why give more powers to those whose performance leaves much to be desired? Pagkatapos pabayaan ang mga LGU na tumayo sa sarili nilang paa sa pagharap sa pandemya sa nakaraang limang buwan, sasabihin ngayon na kailangan ng big brother ang mga LGUs?" he added.

Last week, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also urged the Cabinet members to respect local autonomy.

"What we want to prevent here is overstepping of authority. There is a thin line that separates supervision and control. It is always a subject of overreach by the national government," he said. —KBK, GMA News