The “time out” call issued recently by physicians’ groups unveils far bigger issues that the Duterte administration must address, the policy think-tank Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) said as it also called for the formation of an independent, broad-based multisectoral consultative body parallel to the Inter-Agency Task Force.
Above everything, CenPEG said leadership issues and institutional flaws that run deep in the Duterte administration should be corrected, including, a military punitive approach to a crisis that is fundamentally a public health issue; high expectation on overburdened and ill-supported frontline health workers without giving them a voice in policy making; and lack of clear objectives in enforcing lockdowns.
The urgency of re-strategizing the anti-COVID drive and adopting effective measures cannot be overemphasized given our overburdened and endangered health workers and critical facilities, humongous economic losses, the imminent bankruptcy of critical agencies such as PhilHealth due to alleged corruption, CenPEG stated.
CenPEG chairman Temario Rivera challenged the Duterte administration to allow the creation of a consultative body that will represent medical associations, organizations of health workers, hospitals, as well as national coalitions of communities.
Aside from the citizens’ consultative body, CenPEG also proposed the following urgent measures:
1. Giving full play to the role of civil society organizations and NGOs in local government units which serve as the political frontline against the pandemic. Local communities’ response is achievable once the expertise of CSOs and community leaders is engaged based on their track record in disaster mitigation, environment protection, and livelihood programs.
2. Instead of exclusively relying on the country’s overwhelmed formal medical system and the uncertainty of an anti-COVID vaccine, the government should also systematically promote preventive measures that strengthen peoples’ daily health and immunity, including the use of alternative medicine and health practices.
3. The prompt provision of supplementary financial and food aid to all vulnerable sectors especially the poor communities and the informal workers.