Senators hit double standards, ‘band-aid’ solutions a year into COVID-19 lockdown

Senators hit double standards, 'band-aid' solutions a year into COVID-19 lockdown

MANILA, Philippines — Senators on Monday scored the administration's handling of the pandemic exactly a year since a hard lockdown of Luzon began, saying the country has barely made progress and is facing the same problems.

In a statement, Sen. Nancy Binay hit the "ningas cogon" attitude even among government officials as pandemic-related curbs are now being flouted even as cases rise daily. "Ningas cogon" refers to early enthusiasm that quickly fades.

"What's ironic is that after a year since the lockdown, we are still here with hardly any progress," she said partly in Filipino. The country has seen a fresh surge of cases, with the Department of Health reporting 5,404 new infections on Monday.

"How can we expect people to consiously follow health protocols when even our national and local government officials do not conscientiously follow [these]?"

Binay did not name names, but Police Gen. Debold Sinas, chief of the Philippine National Police, has found himself again in hot waters after reportedly skipping health screenings in his visit to the local police office in Oriental Mindoro last Thursday. He found out the same day that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

The incident is the second quarantine-related controversy he has figured in, after his widely criticized birthday bash in May 2020 during a lockdown when mass gatherings were prohibited.

President Rodrigo Duterte abssolved Sinas of accountability and promoted him to the head of the PNP.

The senator also took aim at how officials are seemingly downplaying the virus' threat with vaccines already in the country.

"Let's not fall into the bad habit of ningas cogon, where we are only good at the start and lax later on," Binay said partly in Filipino. "No matter how long we impose curfews , or even considering enacting ordinances, these won't be effecitve if we continue to display a relaxed atmosphere in the midst of a worsening public health crisis."

Sotto: Government has done what is necessary

In a separate statement, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the government "has done what is necessary" but admitted that there is a lot more to be done.

Noting the rise in cases, Sotto called on the public to avoid leaving their homes and risk exposure to the coronavirus.

"Now, more than ever in the past 12 months, it is safer to stay at home and protect ourselves from catching the virus," he also said as he reminded people to observe health protocols like wearing face masks and shields and maintaining physical distancing.

Sotto also said that the public should get vaccinated as soon as doses are more widely available.

"Together we stand in the fight against COVID, but if we fail, recovery will be an uphill climb," he warned.

Government 'scrambling' again

In a privilege speech on the anniversary of the lockdown, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the country has seen "365 days of hypocrisy" from some officials who violated quarantine measures.

The administration's response of "undeserving promotions, pats-on-the-back and premature celebrations," she said, have resulted in neglect in pandemic handling.

"IATF continues to use silly and ineffective band-aid solutions as a smokescreen for the fact that the real systematic response has still not yet been made," Hontiveros said in a statement, adding that to date, the country still has no free mass testing and an efficient contact tracing system.

In a privilege speech delivered also today, she said government is likely resort again to a militaristic approach to the health crisis as officials are in disarray on how to control the ongoing surge.

"Why are police in fatigue uniforms with guns tasked to carry out curbs?" she said. "COVID-19 is a health problem. This virus is not going away just because you brandish a gun, just as it will not stop spreading because there are officers in fatigues at a checkpoint."

As it stands, health officials on Monday reported 5,404 new COVID-19 cases, raising the country's total to 626,893.

This count is already the highest in seven months, and the fourth biggest tallied in a day since the pandemic began.

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