On the failure of the Philippine government to respond to and manage COVID-19 consistently at all levels

If there is an albatross on the President Rodrigo Duterte’s back since the start of the pandemic, it has to be the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID). I don’t keep track of quarantine classifications anymore because it makes my head spin. Much worse, they’re not followed anyway, except for the first lockdown when it was strictly enforced. I have a friend who went to the US for the holiday season last year. He said he would be back in February. It’s now June and he’s still in the US. He and his family are fully-vaccinated. The perks of dual citizenship. But he doesn’t want to come back just yet because of the quarantine upon arrival even for those who have been vaccinated. More than likely he will spend the whole year in the US if quarantine restrictions on returning residents aren’t relaxed.

Actual experience in contact-tracing is also a nightmare. QR codes are now required in establishments. Problem now is the establishments don’t provide their security guards with scanners. Apparently there is no sense of urgency among owners to enforce the requirement. Why? Because government doesn’t enforce it as well. We experienced the surge in the National Capital Region and its outskirts (NCR+) last March through May. The daily case count hasn’t gone down because the regions are now affected. Test, trace and treat is still not the default. There is no unified system for those who have been vaccinated to show proof.

It’s become a game of finger-pointing between the IATF-EID and the local government units (LGUs) when it comes to vaccine availability. The LGUs haven’t adopted technology to solve the glitches in the registration process. I’m not surprised anymore because my short government stint exposed me to the realities of the bureaucracy. When you have incompetent and unqualified employees this is the result. It actually depends on the mindset of the Mayor to solve the problem. But most of the time this is passed on to the chief aide, who also doesn’t have a clue. The public ends up suffering because they are at the mercy of “public servants” who don’t serve but make life difficult for the public instead.

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PhilSTAR columnist Boo chanco pointed out today, “the failure to explain the rationale for rules cause confusion and loss of confidence in government.” In this respect, the President has failed. He actually needs to sit everyone, including the LGU heads, down if the system is to improve. The basic problem is not everyone who is in government is up to the task or doing the assigned task. This is the best argument for a change in political structure. This is the best solution to resolve the gridlock combined with the digitization of the bureaucracy. If you want to minimize corruption, there should be less human intervention. Blockchain is the answer. COVID-19 is not going to go away anytime soon. A McKinsey study I read the other night puts much emphasis on digitization and smart technology to move forward in the present environment.

This is why the next President has his or her work cut out for him or her. We will not get onto the path to economic recovery without significant reform and without adapting to the requisite changes which need to be put in place. We need more officials who are critical, out-of-the-box thinkers who can provide the best solutions to the myriad of problems we face. It cannot be business-as-usual. We need to have a concrete strategy moving forward. The old normal is history. The future is already here.

4 Replies to “On the failure of the Philippine government to respond to and manage COVID-19 consistently at all levels”

  1. Trillanes, Pacquiao, Lacson, Sotto, Moreno, Robredo. Pick one ?! We elect somebody and the problem will solve itself! Nevermind that whoever has the control of resources has the power!

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