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Bayan insists again: Duque must resign now

Bayan insists again: Duque must resign now

MANILA, Philippines — For the nth time, Health Secretary Francisco Duque has been asked to resign for allegedly mismanaging the country’s COVID-19 response and after he claimed that the country is ready for a less stringent quarantine.

According to activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Duque has failed to address the health crisis properly, almost one year since the entire Luzon and other areas were placed under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

The ECQ status is the most strict quarantine classification in the Philippines, followed by a modified ECQ (MECQ), a general community quarantine (GCQ), and a modified GCQ (MGCQ).  Earlier, Duque said that the entire country is ready for an MGCQ status — despite not even starting COVID-19 vaccinations.

“Duque should resign as DOH Secretary and IATF head for failing to meet the necessary health requirements for the easing of quarantine restrictions, one year since the government first imposed the ECQ,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said on Monday.

“We are stuck at ‘forever GCQ’ because of failed leadership in pandemic response. And to think this morning, he said entire PH ready for MGCQ!?” he asked.

The idea of placing the whole country and not just some places under an MGCQ was recently floated by acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua, who advised President Rodrigo Duterte to enforce this measure to open up the economy.

Chua said that the less restrictive MGCQ would allow several industries and businesses to operate fully again, reviving the ailing economy.  Currently, several major hubs like Metro Manila and Cebu City are still under a GCQ, which means many establishments are not yet allowed to open.

In 2020, the Philippines posted its worst year-on-year gross domestic product (GDP) numbers, as the economy shrunk by 9.5 percent — the worst slump since it started tallying GDP numbers after the Second World War ended.

Duque said that since local governments now know how to prevent coronavirus transmissions, the country is ready for MGCQ.  But on Monday night, Malacañang said that President Duterte thumbed down the proposal, stressing the vaccine rollout should come first.

But Bayan said that if that was the plan all along — to shift to MGCQ once the COVID-19 vaccines are administered, the country may expect a longer GCQ because the vials have yet to arrive.

Several Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) officials said that the vaccines would arrive between February and early March, but no official vaccinations have been made by the government going into February’s last week.

“If the nationwide MGCQ will depend on a vaccine rollout, then we are doomed. We are looking at an indefinite GCQ with no clear plans for aid or bail-out for the people and the struggling economy,” Reyes claimed.

This call for Duque to resign was not first, and neither was it only from Bayan and opposition groups.  While Bayan had repeatedly asked Duterte to fire Duque for several blunders, other officials like Senator Nancy Binay and administration ally Senator Manny Pacquiao have also asked the Health secretary to step down.

Aside from these, many celebrities and even health workers also want Duque booted from the cabinet.

As of Monday, the country has 563,456 COVID-19 cases, 28,488 of which are consider active cases. A total of 522,874 have recovered but the death toll is currently at 12,094.

But despite the high recovery rate, the administration has been criticized for bad numbers in managing the COVID-19 pandemic, with its response being ranked worst in the Asean region.

An independent report from the Australian initiative Lowy Institute showed that the Philippines ranks 79th out of 98 countries observed in terms of handling the COVID-19 pandemic — lagging behind its Asean neighbors.

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