No more Covid-19 beds? Duterte cites ‘police power’ to take over hotels
MANILA, Philippines–President Rodrigo Duterte has said he would not hesitate to use police power for the government’s pandemic response, particularly to take over hotels so they can accommodate COVID-19 patients or to secure medicines from warehouses if necessary.
Duterte was responding to critics who had found the administration’s handling of the health crisis to be inadequate.
“We were not lacking. Right after the [World Health Organization] advisory, the following day or the day after, sometime within 48 hours, we already had the task force,” Duterte on Thursday night said in a televised public address, the second he held this week.
The government, he said, can take over hotels to use their beds for patients.
“They are there and we can make a go for as much as we need. You look, I can even use the power of the police power of the state. You know what? I can order the authorities to take over the operations of hotels if there are no beds anymore. That is easy. That is not really a problem,” he said.
He would use his power, he said, when the circumstances call for it.
“I am not without power. When we are pushed to the wall, either by the microbe itself or by external, internal (factors), I can always order the military and the police to go there and confiscate the operation of the hotel.
“And even the medicines. I can go to wherever warehouse there and then,” he said.
But he noted that this was not ideal in a democracy or not “what you would call a remedy desired in a democratic state.”
The Duterte administration has come under repeated criticism for its pandemic response after the latest surge of COVID 19 cases filled up hospitals and left many patients in long queues, some reportedly dying outside emergency rooms while waiting for available beds.
The government, the President said, knows what to do and has been taking action, including the setup of infrastructure and filling the gaps in the pandemic response.
“My countrymen, do not be afraid. We are not left with nothing. We are not really at a total loss of what to do. We know what to do,” he said.
“Maybe everybody wants to be heard. Problem is, there is no time to hear everyone. We do not have that luxury of time,” he added.
With the global supply of Covid-19 vaccines still limited, he said, he does not know when the country would be able to get enough doses for its population.
“To maybe our sadness, the stocks that are coming in are barely enough to inoculate the health workers who are really the priority. Now, when will we have that stocks sufficient to vaccinate the people? I really do not know. Nobody knows.”
“The vaccine is there but not in our hands. It’s in the hands of other people. And… I think, before it gets better, we’ll have to go to the worst of times,” he said.
Still, he said, “Do not be afraid. Government is working. Government is busy doing everything, not nothing. Government is trying to get the things to fix all of us.”
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