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Robredo: Gov't not receptive to criticism, suggestions on COVID-19 response

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Robredo: Gov't not receptive to criticism, suggestions on COVID-19 response
This undated photo shows Vice President Leni Robredo.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte's administration seems to be averse to any form of criticism, Vice President Leni Robredo said Sunday, pointing out that agencies have been sensitive to negative feedback.

Speaking in her weekly radio show Sunday, the vice president said that the government does not seem receptive to data and experts in the medical community when they contradict government policy.

"What is bothersome is how they respond...it seems like they are content with their efforts right now, and that worries me. They get angry when you say that their response is lacking. They respond by saying you're trying to ruin the government. That's a scary approach because it would be better for you to acknowledge that there is a problem," Robredo said in Filipino. 

READ: Has pandemic response been recalibrated or is MECQ a repeat of the same policies?

"It feels like the government is comfortable with how things are going right now, even if the numbers say that they [are not going well]. We aren't improving. It's a crisis and it's affecting people's lives. Our response should be proactive, and we shouldn't be content," she also said. 

The vice president has live-streamed two public addresses outlining her calls and suggestions to the national government, which she says are conclusions she came to after consultation with experts and affected sectors. 

The addresses, streamed over Facebook, are not meant to be State of the Nation Addresses, which only the president gives.

Malacañang, though, has urged Filipinos not to have the "wrong view" that the coronavirus situation in the Philippines is worsening, often pointing out that other countries are also struggling with the virus and that "we are not alone." 

'Angered when criticized' 

President Rodrigo Duterte's own public addresses has featured lengthy asides where he hits Robredo and government critics. Officials have also conflated criticism with attempts to bring down the government. 

“Please do not add fuel to the fire. You will just destroy the government. Do not destroy the government because you will destroy the people. If the government is brought down, we will all be floating. Even if we say I die tomorrow, it cannot solve the problem of the country,” Duterte said in a video aired on Tuesday. The comment was addressed to Robredo.

The Palace has also rebuffed surveys by polling body the Social Weather Stations when these do not paint a flattering picture of the government's handling of the pandemic. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque has said that bad survey results are to be expected because "everyone is struggling" amid the pandemic. 

When medical societies called for a "time-out" at the start of August, Duterte said that he heard and acknowledged their concerns—but he also publicly scolded them for voicing out their grievances "as if" calling for a revolution. 

Nowhere in the letter penned by the Philippine College of Physicians—where it bared grievances towards the government's handling of the pandemic—was a call for a revolution. In a clarficatory letter after the president scolded doctors, the PCP said it did not know Duterte was not aware of issues it had raised with the Department of Health in April. 

Robredo also denied the claim that she is politicizing the coronavirus pandemic, saying: "There's no politics here. If we're only after politics, I would have hinted that beforehand. I wouldn't have given them the chance to do what needs to be done."

READ: For Palace, it's 'wrong' to say Philippines has more COVID-19 cases than Indonesia | 'Cases up abroad too': Roque plays down high daily COVID-19 case increases

The government's coronavirus task force has said after the "time-out" lockdown that it has recalibrated its approach to addressing the pandemic, though no substantial changes have been made in the government's policy against the new pathogen. 

Duterte also continues to assert that a forthcoming vaccine is the only solution left for the country. 

On Sunday, the Philippines' caseload for coronavirus patients breached the 217,000 mark after health authorities added 4,284 more cases. Thousands of cases are still being recorded every day as the country, on its 166th day of quarantine, is still under the world's longest lockdown. 

"We've been here for five months. It's not acceptable for us to see things that are wrong and not say anything...even before my public addresses I wrote to them and made suggestions. We have a lot of experts too who have made suggestions. We're not even saying all of them should be followed but if only they were listened to," Robredo said. 

"So many are dying, so many are getting sick. We can see clearly what's wrong with our response. It's been so poor. For every day that our response is lacking, we put our people's lives at risk."

NOVEL CORONAVIRUS

PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE

VICE PRESIDENT LENI ROBREDO

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