Panelo on Philippines COVID-19 survey result: Unbelievable
A recent poll by the Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute titled “The State of Southeast Asia: 2021” found more than half or 53.7 percent of Filipino respondents disapproving of the Duterte administration’s pandemic response.
Walter Bollozos, file

Panelo on Philippines COVID-19 survey result: Unbelievable

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 15, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte’s chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo yesterday disputed a survey suggesting that Filipinos are the most disapproving of their government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Southeast Asia.

A recent poll by the Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute titled “The State of Southeast Asia: 2021” found more than half or 53.7 percent of Filipino respondents disapproving of the Duterte administration’s pandemic response.

Nearly a fifth or 17.9 percent of Filipino respondents “strongly disapproved” of the government’s response – the highest among the countries that belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

More than a third or 35.8 percent of the respondents said they “disapprove” of the response, while 20.9 percent were neutral on the issue.

Panelo expressed doubts on the results of the poll, saying it contradicted the surveys conducted by local pollsters.

“I do not believe in the State of Southeast Asia 2021 survey because it went against the previous statements of Pulse Asia and SWS (Social Weather Stations),” he said in his television program.

“Perhaps foreigners are behind this, and it’s unbelievable that 35.8 percent disapprove (of the government’s response). Our local surveys state that the government is enjoying high approval ratings,” he added.

Panelo cited a November SWS survey which found 69 percent of respondents saying that the worst is already behind them in terms of the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are still OK... We are the ones affected, so we will know whether the response of the government, insofar as they concern us, is correct or not,” he said.

The survey also found 19.4 percent of respondents approving of and six percent strongly approving of the administration’s measures against the pandemic.

Panelo defended the pandemic measures implemented by the Department of Health (DOH), saying they are based on the recommendation of experts.

“The DOH said it would continue to improve its performance to fulfill its mandate to protect and uphold public health,” he said.

“Remember, the DOH has no policy, guidelines or actions that are not compliant with the recommendations of the World Health Organization and our scientists,” he added.

Panelo said the public can contribute in the fight against COVID-19 by following safety protocols.

Missing targets, conflicting policies

The Duterte administration’s missing targets, conflicting policies and delays in implementing urgent programs is contributing to Filipinos’ lack of confidence in the rollout of the mass vaccination for COVID-19 and their economic future, senators warned yesterday.

In separate pronouncements, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Joel Villanueva strongly urged the government to do more in improving and accelerating its programs to address the pandemic and reviving the economy as they noted that other countries in the region have their mass vaccinations well underway.

“It’s been a year, but it seems (that the government) was not able to inspire confidence,” Drilon told radio station dzBB, citing ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute’s survey. “In the past year, there were so many inefficiencies, conflicting statements.”

He added that the contact tracing program – even with the infusion of funds under the Bayanihan laws and the national budget – was never successfully implemented along with some other initiatives.

This underperformance was exacerbated by various controversies on COVID-19 vaccines, some emanating right from Malacañang, Drilon said.

In a recent statement, Villanueva also shared the view that the government’s response to the pandemic was dismal.

He said the recent regional poll only “confirms what most Filipinos feel. And the writing on the wall has been evident for all of us to see.”

Villanueva added that the government response should be “given an immediate booster shot and the ways to tame the pain require scaling up because the health crisis is fast turning into a humanitarian crisis.”

Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said the low demand for vaccines in communities due to misinformation is still a challenge for local government units (LGUs) as the nationwide vaccination program is set to begin this month.

DILG spokesperson Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya emphasized that there is still fear among residents regarding the COVID-19 vaccines.

“That’s our problem, the fear of our fellow citizens regarding what they read on Facebook, those stories told to them,” Malaya said in Filipino in an interview with radio station dzBB.

He added that while the situation on the ground is getting better, this fear that leads to low demand is one of the biggest challenges for LGUs.

The DILG official, however, assured the public that all vaccines that would be rolled out have been given authorization by the FDA and are safe. – Paolo Romero, Romina Cabrera

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