MANILA, Philippines —President Rodrigo Duterte has insisted that the government’s response to the COVID-19 threat was neither slow nor lacking, disputing accusations that his efforts to address the economic and health crises had been ineffective.
During his speech on Thursday, Duterte debunked claims from the opposition that his hesitancy in enforcing travel bans and dealing with the outbreak were the reasons for the surge in cases which ultimately caused an economic crisis and thousands of deaths.
Brazil — a country that was severely affected by the pandemic — was the President’s focus when he reflected on the steps his administration took in 2020.
“Gaya sa Brazil, bakit sila nagkagano’n? Eh puro suplado eh. While nagkandarapa tayo dito sa Pilipinas we were scrambling where to get the vaccines as early as ‘yong when we constituted the task force,” Duterte said.
(How did things go wrong in Brazil?…While we scrambled to find the vaccines as early as the day…we constituted the task force.)
“And we were not wanting. I’d like to just disabuse the mind of — na nagkulang tayo (we did very little). Wala na kayong tinignan kung hindi ‘yong kagaguhan ninyo. Hindi tayo nagkulang, right after the WHO (World Health Organization) advisory, the following day after, basta within 48 hours, we already had the task force,” he added.
(You don’t look at anything but your stupidity. It was on the next day after the WHO (World Health Organization) advisory that a task force was convened. We did not fail. Within 48 hours we had the task force in place.)
#OustDuterte trended on January 31, 2020, after netizens expressed their concern over the government’s alleged lax attitude towards the COVID-19 scare—called the 2019-nCoV at the time.
On the same day, several opposition leaders, including Vice President Leni Robredo, called for a travel ban on inbound flights from China to prevent the COVID-19 epidemic from spreading across the country. COVID-19 originated in Hubei Province in China.
As cases mounted, the national government placed strict lockdown measures over Luzon and other areas by March.
As Duterte continued to defend his decisions, he said that he only listens to medical professionals like Health Secretary Francisco Duque.
“Ang problema, kung task force sana na may ku’nan. Nand’yan ‘yong task force, nand’yan ‘yong mga doktor natin, nand’yan ‘yong mga bright na Pilipino, pero no’ng sinabi ko na na may task force ready tayo, and I am imposing the lockdowns here and there, it’s because of what the medical people say. Eh abugado naman ako hindi naman ako doktor,” Duterte said.
(The problem is that there should have been a task force. There is the task force, our physicians, and the bright Filipinos, but when I said that we have a task force ready and that I am enforcing lockdowns in various locations, it is because of what the medical professionals say. I am a lawyer, not a physician.)
“Eh kung ano sabihin ni Secretary Duque, eh ’yon ang susundin ko, siya ‘yong secretary of health eh,” he added.
(What Secretary Duque says, that’s what I will follow; he’s the secretary of health.)
Senator Leila de Lima denounced the President after his briefing last Monday, asking why he was considering her a problem rather than the COVID-19 pandemic. She reminded the President that it was his fault that COVID-19 reached the country.
Various leaders had earlier said Duterte must step down immediately since he had failed in his duty to manage the pandemic and attend to the needs of the people.
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