Officials defend appointment of ex-military men in war vs COVID-19

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 27) — President Rodrigo Duterte has always preferred appointing former military men to the government, and the country's battle against the coronavirus disease outbreak is no exception.

He recently named Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr., a former Armed Forces chief, as chief implementer of the government's national response against COVID-19. 

In a phone interview on CNN Philippines' Balitaan on Friday, Galvez explained that his post is under that of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who heads the national task force against COVID-19. Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, also a former top soldier, is vice chairman.

Galvez said the national task force is the "operational arm" of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, which is the policy-making body for COVID-19 response.

Galvez explained the supposed military approach in containing the spread of a viral disease, saying the major problem now lies with logistics – which he will address.

"Kasi nagkakaroon po ng malaking problema ang logistics function natin... Kulang ang PPE, kulang ang ventilator, kulang ang respirator, yun pong mga yung ay mga logistics functions," Galvez said.

[Translation: Because there is a big problem now with our logistics function... There's lack of PPE, ventilator, respirator, these are logistics functions.]

He said the government has procured 19,000 units of protective equipment from China – "from goggles down to shoe cover" – which will be transported via C-130 aircraft. This is in response to the inter-agency task force's recommendation for the stockpiling of personal protective equipment, he added.

Galvez said the goal is to "protect and preserve our frontliners."

The Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. on Thursday said at least nine doctors have succumbed to COVID-19, and that they were exposed to the virus due to the shortage of protective gear.

Meanwhile, Malacañang in a separate statement said "we need men and women trained in the art of warfare," like Galvez, Lorenzana, and Año, since we are in a "state of war against an unseen enemy."

"They are not embroiled in bureaucratic rigmaroles. They abhor useless debates, they are silent workers, not voracious talkers. They act without fanfare. They get things done," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

He added that the police and military are needed to strictly enforce travel restrictions amid the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.

"With high and senior ex-military men at the helm of the implementing organisations, the officers as well as the rank and file of the PNP and the AFP will necessarily follow the orders coming from them, issued by the Commander-in Chief, without question and with impartiality in the strict implementation of the protocols, guidelines and procedures established by the national government," Panelo added.

The Philippines now has 707 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Of this number, 45 have died while 28 have recovered. The surge in cases prompted Duterte to approve the inter-agency task force's recommendation to place Luzon under enhanced community quarantine – deploying policemen and soldiers to restrict people's movement – to contain the spread of the virus.

Galvez said there is possibility for the enhanced community quarantine to be extended beyond the second week of April, but assured that the government "is in full control."