Militaristic response? COVID-19 fight not just a medical one, says Nograles

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 05 2020 12:00 PM

Members of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Coastguard (PCG) monitor the checkpoint at SM East Ortigas at the Pasig-Cainta border on August 04, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - It is inaccurate to say that the government is using a militaristic approach to the coronavirus pandemic, a member of President Rodrigo Duterte's Cabinet said Wednesday, arguing that the crisis is not just a medical fight.

The government has a technical advisory team composed of medical experts, mathematicians, and statisticians that advise on policies and pandemic response strategies, said Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who co-chairs the government's pandemic response policy-making body.

"Hindi naman po accurate to say na puro military or pulis ang ating approach dito sa pandemyang ito. We are backed up by a lot of technical experts in various fields at kasama sila doon sa ating technical advisory panel," he said in an online forum.

(It is inaccurate to say that we only rely on the military and police for the pandemic.)

While the government's pandemic response policy-making body is chaired by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, President Duterte has relied mostly on retired military generals to lead the country's response, with the likes of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Peace Process Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr, and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.

In a public address last week, the President even said he would leave the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to the military once it becomes available.

Nograles said the government needs to employ a "multi-sectoral approach" for the pandemic as it affects not just public health.

"Itong laban kasi sa COVID is not purely a medical fight...Iba-ibang fronts ito. Multi-sectoral approach ito," he said.

(The fight against COVID is not purely a medical fight...This has different fronts and needs a multi-sectoral approach.)

"It's not simply a health pandemic, kasama ekonomiya, kasama ang society, kasama ang social needs," he added.

(It's not simply a health pandemic. It involves the economy, the society, and social needs.)

Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar also defended the heightened presence of law enforcers during the community quarantines, saying they are needed to ensure peace and order.

"Laging kasama ang pulis dahil nasisisi ang pulis kapag wala ang pulis at mayroong nangyari doon," he said.

(The police are always there because the police are blamed if something happens and they're not there.)

The Philippines remains under varying levels of community quarantine as COVID-19 infections continue to rise, with the stricter modified enhanced community quarantine restored in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces this week. 

On Tuesday, the country reported a record-high of 6,352 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed coronavirus infections to 112,593.