Lacson: Malacañang not ready to implement law to fight pandemic

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang seems unprepared to implement the law that Congress rushed to pass last week to give President Rodrigo Duterte special powers in dealing with the new coronavirus pandemic, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said on Wednesday.

Lacson, an administration ally, did not mince words in criticizing the government for its “lack of foresight” a week after the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, or Republic Act No. 11469, took effect.

Lacson had supported proposals for the Duterte administration to clearly spell out a “National Strategic Plan,” which will be the basis of a “National Action Plan” to fight the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the severe acute respiratory disease called COVID-19.

“The lack of foresight … is obviously causing the delays as we see it actually happening now,” Lacson said in a Viber message.

“They knew beforehand what they wanted to ask from Congress. When we gave it to them in a record time of 18 hours, apparently they were not prepared to execute,” he lamented.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he had asked Lacson to submit his comments and recommendations to the congressional oversight committee tasked with assessing the implementation of the law.

Lacson, who led the government’s response to the destruction wrought in 2013 by Supertyphoon Yolanda (internationally known as Haiyan), said the President’s report to Congress did not mention how exactly the government would deliver emergency aid, secure health facilities, and carry out “fiscal and monetary actions for the economy.”

“Such lack of planning and coordinating threatens to defeat the purpose of the urgency of (the law) — that is to resolve and fight the virus by way of smooth and expeditious implementation,” he said.

“There must be an overall plan by the executive department to mitigate the risks and minimizing or stopping the spread of COVID-19, including a detailed presentation of how funds will be disbursed and used by the implementing agencies. The same must be made public for transparency,” he added.

Lacson said that health professionals, Instead of making them frontliners, should be the country’s “third and last line of defense” against the virus.

The former Philippine National Police chief said the public should be at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 while law enforcers and various state agencies should be the second-liners.

Both Sotto and Sen. Joel Villanueva urged the government to make public the names of individuals who were to receive or had been given the monthly cash subsidies ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

“While [Malacanang] has assured us that the list of beneficiaries will be streamlined, we suggest that our government place the final list of beneficiaries, including names and their barangays, in a website, which will serve as a transparency mechanism and a convenient form of accounting for the public,” Villanueva said.