Villar faces fresh backlash over 'out-of-touch' comment on health workers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 2) — Senator Cynthia Villar has once again earned the ire of netizens over another "insensitive" and "out-of-touch" remark against a particular sector amid the coronavirus pandemic.

This time, Villar had something to say to medical workers, who have been pleading for a two-week “timeout” due to the still-rising infections in the metropolis: "Hindi na siguro. Pagbutihin nila trabaho nila."

[Translation: Perhaps there's no need. They should just do their jobs better.]

Villar's comment in a radio interview on Saturday has gained fresh criticisms online, with more than 60,000 tweets slamming her remark overnight.

"You made me believe in cancelled culture, Cynthia Villar. Nakakainsulto kayo (You have insulted us)," said Dr. Gia Sison.

"When Cynthia Villar trends, we automatically know she said something completely insensitive and out-of-touch," said @sosyolohija.

"Ah, yes, Cynthia Villar — the same person who insulted nurses, displaced farmers from their lands, disrespected researchers and scientists, and now she's attacking our frontliners," @wthhl_ tweeted. "If there's one thing she's good at, that's being insensitive and out-of-touch. Very consistent."

Vice President Leni Robredo also expressed a similar sentiment, stressing that public officials who make such "insensitive" comments are unaware of the sacrifices of the country's frontliners.

"Ang nagko-comment na 'pagbutihin na lang ang trabaho,' number one very insensitive. Number two, hindi nila alam kung ano iyong sakripisyo ng ating health workers," she said in her radio show on Sunday.

[Translation: Those who can afford to comment that health workers should just do better at their jobs are number one, very insensitive. Number two, they do not know the sacrifices of our health workers.]

The senator defended herself on Sunday, claiming that she was actually referring to the national government, including the Department of Health and PhilHealth.

"We have to work harder and better, but I am not referring in particular to the medical workers — our frontliners...there is so much room for improvement in the government's response to curb the transmission of the disease," she said.

Villar was previously slammed for refusing to raise the budget of the Agriculture Department due to its "crazy" obsession with research, and for opposing cash aid for middle-class families amid the pandemic.

Health workers and medical associations on Saturday proposed a two-week enhanced community quarantine status from August 1 to 15 in Mega Manila, citing surging COVID-19 cases and an overwhelmed healthcare system.

Dr. Benito Atienza, vice president of the Philippine Medical Association, said the medical community has raised numerous issues to the Inter-Agency Task Force that need urgent consideration amid the pandemic.

Among them are: Hospital workforce deficiency, failure in contact tracing and easy detection of COVID-19 cases, transportation safety of health workers and commuters, workplace safety, and public compliance with health protocols.

Atienza told CNN Philippines' Newsroom Weekend that the task force has yet to finalize their decision on their request.

Meanwhile, Senate President Tito Sotto and Senator Panfilo Lacson said Malacañang should seriously consider the medical community's "valid" request.

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President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Friday that Metro Manila will retain its general community quarantine status for the next two weeks.

But on Saturday, the country logged anew the highest number of COVID-19 infections in a day with almost 5,000 new cases, pushing the total cases to 98,232.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who is facing calls for resignation due to his management of the crisis, said they will revisit game plans and develop a better strategy between government and private sector counterparts within the week.