Roque denies hand in Leachon ‘removal’ as Nat’l Task Force adviser

Robie de Guzman   •   June 18, 2020   •   242

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday denied that he had a hand in the ‘removal’ of Dr. Tony Leachon as special adviser to the National Task Force against COVID-19.

Roque issued the statement after Leachon claimed that he and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III were behind his leaving following his recent tweets criticizing the Department of Health’s (DOH) response to the crisis and its reporting of COVID-19 cases.

Leachon also earlier said that the DOH has lost its focus, and criticized its lack of sense of urgency and transparency in the communication process.

During a televised briefing, Roque said he has no authority to compel anyone to resign and that it was no less than President  Rodrigo Duterte himself had noticed Leachon’s criticism against the DOH which is the lead agency in the government’s response on the COVID-19 situation.

“Let me correct you Dr. Leachon. Hindi po ako, hindi po Secretary Duque. Mismong si President Duterte po noted that you should not be doing what you were doing kasi alam ninyo po pagdating sa datos ng department of health, wala pong tinatago,” he said.

Roque also did not deny the Palace’s negative reaction to Leachon’s criticisms but maintained that the government has been transparent on issues relating to the coronavirus pandemic.

“You do not have the monopoly of the truth and we have never lied, saan po kami nagsinungaling? Dapat ilathala niya yan. We are perfecting the recording of cases, we have not perfected it yet but we are striving po to improve,” he said.

In a statement, Leachon said he still respects the president but it would be a disservice to him if he is not alerted to the current state of the country amid the public health crisis.

“It’s my moral responsibility to inform the public and great disservice to the president if we will not alert him the current state of health of the country on covid pandemic. I respect PRRD It’s all up to him. I’ll remain loyal to the flag,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Gov’t assigns anti-COVID-19 czars to boost fight against virus

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 14, 2020

The Duterte Administration assigned anti-COVID czars to intensify the country’s response against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The Malacañang admitted that the number of COVID-19 cases in the country continues to rise but it assured that the administration is still in control of the situation.

Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, Jr. introduced the four anti-COVID czars, namely, Secretary Vivencio Dizon as Chief Testing Czar, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong as Chief Tracing Czar, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar as Chief Isolation Czar, and Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega as Chief Treatment Czar.

Roque explained that all four anti-COVID czars will be directly under the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) led by Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.

Mas malawakang targeted testing, mas maraming isolation centers, mas matinding tracing, at mas matinding treatment para sa mga nagkakasakit. Lahat po yan sa ilalim ng NTF, sa ilalim ng ating Chief Implementer Secretary Galvez (More extensive targeted testing, additional isolation centers, improved contact tracing, and better quality of treatment for patients. All of these will be under the NTF, under Chief Implementer Secretary Galvez),” Roque said.

Chief Testing Czar Secretary Dizon reported there are now 85 COVID-19 laboratories nationwide, with nearly 1 million tests done as of July 11. Daily tests as of July 9 reached 25,000, nearing the 30,000 daily tests target by end of the month.

For tracing, Chief Tracing Czar Mayor Magalong said they are seeking to intensify skills training for contact tracers and use a contact tracing e-system composed of a COVID-19 data collection tool, a GIS (geographical information system) platform, and a Link Analysis Tool.

Chief Isolation Czar Secretary Villar said they plan to construct more quarantine facilities nationwide. Aside from the existing 129 regional evacuation centers, they are also building quarantine facilities in Region 7, Region 8, Region 10, and in Region 12.

Meanwhile, Chief Treatment Czar Dr. Vega said expanding hospital capacity will be one of his priorities. He also introduced One Hospital Command which will be in charge of both public and private hospitals and quarantine facilities in terms of planning healthcare capacity among others.

Galvez also said the NTF will also focus on the economy and social recovery of the country.

Nandito po tayo sa sitwasyon na dahan-dahan nating binubuksan ang ating ekonomiya. Bagaman nandito po ang threat ng virus, kailangan na nating i-recover ang ating mga ekonomiya para manumbalik po ang negosyo at trabaho ng ating mamamayan (We are in a situation where we are slowly opening our economy. Even though the threat of the virus is still there we still need our economy to recover so that businesses and jobs will reopen for our citizens), he said. –AAC

Palace remains ‘neutral’ on House rejection of ABS-CBN franchise bid

Marje Pelayo   •   July 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque reiterated on Friday (July 10) that the Palace remains neutral on the issue of ABS-CBN franchise renewal.

In a statement after the House Committee on Legislative Franchises rejected the network’s franchise application, Roque said House Committee decision is a “sole prerogative of Congress” that the Executive Branch recognizes.

“The Palace has maintained a neutral stance on the issue as it respects the separation of powers between the two co-equal branches of government,” he said. 

“Much as we want to work with the aforesaid media network, we have to abide by the resolution of the House committee,” he added. 

Voting 70-11, the Committee chaired by Rep. Franz Alvarez adopted the resolution submitted by the Technical Working Group (TWG) rejecting the network’s bid for another 25-year franchise. 

READ: House prepares to vote on ABS-CBN franchise renewal

For his part, ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak in a statement said they ‘are deeply hurt’ by the House Committee’s decision saying, “We believe that we have been rendering a service that is meaningful and valuable to the Filipino public.”

Nevertheless, Katigbak said the network expressed its gratitude to the Committee for giving them the chance to air their side on all the issues and allegations raised against them.

“We remain committed to public service, and we hope to find other ways to achieve our mission.  Together with our employees and our audiences all over the world, we share in your sadness over this setback,” he said. 

“We look forward to the day when we can again reunite under our broadcast,” he further said.

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Malacañang admits shortcomings in not building more laboratories soon enough

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 9, 2020

Malacañang admitted the government had shortcomings in not building more coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing laboratories to boost the country’s response against the pandemic.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the country only began having more testing laboratories last March, adding that the country should have already boosted its testing capacity when the first COVID-19 case was reported.

Inaamin po natin na medyo naging mabagal ang proseso sa lumipas po na dalawang buwan (We admit the process has been slow in the past two months),” he said.

“If I were to look back, what could have we done better? Siguro po noong nagkaroon tayo ng unang kaso imported case ng COVID, dapat pinalawak na natin ang testing capacity natin agad (When we had the first imported case of COVID-19, we could have already boosted our testing capacity), Roque added.

The country only had one COVID-19 laboratory in January. As of July 7, licensed RT-PCR laboratories across the country have reached 78. The Palace official said the government is improving its COVID-19 testing, treatment, and contact tracing to better the response against the virus.

The Duterte Administration also called on the public, local government, and business establishments to be more responsible in following minimum health standards including social distancing, wearing face masks, and hand washing.

Roque also announced the government will further boost its targeted testing.

Bukod po sa 10 million na naorder natin at 1 million na na-deliver na PCR testing, magkakaroon ng mas malawak na targeted testing na iaanunsyo po natin sa mga darating na panahon (Aside from the 10 million we ordered and the 1 million PCR testing that has been delivered, there will be wider targeted testing which we will announce soon), he said. –AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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