Cebu governor faces raps over COVID-19 response
CEBU CITY, Cebu, Philippines —A party list group has filed a complaint against Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia for allegedly “downplaying and belittling” the COVID-19 pandemic that led to the death of more than 2,500 people in the province.
Garcia, however, described the complaint filed by Sanlakas in the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas on Monday as a “desperate attempt to gain media mileage.”
Teodorico Navea, secretary general of Sanlakas Cebu chapter, asked the Ombudsman to hold Garcia liable for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
According to Navea, the governor made the public believe that COVID-19 was a simple flu, and endorsed the use of “tuob” (traditional practice of steam inhalation). He also claimed that Garcia failed to purchase vaccines against COVID-19, resulting in a low vaccination rate for the province.
“To date, the province of Cebu, even with the staggering amount of public resources that it enjoys, has a vaccination rate of [only] around 20 percent while public education and campaigns for vaccination have been very limited,” he said.
Navea filed the complaint with urban poor leaders Celsa Santillan and Crescito Ditchon, both members of Sanlakas Cebu provincial council.Garcia, who is seeking reelection in 2022, shrugged off the allegations.
“They are making a mockery of the justice system with this baseless and ridiculous complaint—all in their desperate attempt to gain media mileage, hoping to bolster their dwindling political stock. Intawon sad (What a pity),” said Garcia in a statement sent to reporters via Facebook Messenger.
In its complaint, Sanlakas cited the governor’s supposed disregard of protocols set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), including the conduct of swabbing for returning overseas Filipino workers.
The governor’s action, he claimed, resulted in a third wave of the pandemic in the province.
Navea said Garcia also “underused” or withheld public funds that were allocated to her office in 2020.Of the P13-billion budget, Navea said only P3 billion was spent for the province’s COVID-19 response.
“The province of Cebu is not the best. In fact, we can say that Governor Garcia has the worst performance against the pandemic,” Navea said.
But Board Member John Ismael Borgonia, a member of the provincial board’s committee on health, said the P13-billion budget cited by Sanlakas was for the full expenses of the province and not just for its COVID-19 response.
“Perhaps, they (Sanlakas) are just really after media mileage,” said Borgonia, Garcia’s political ally.
Department of Health records showed that the province had 320 active cases of COVID-19 as of Nov. 23.
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Cebu had logged 37,109 infections with 34,285 recoveries and 2,504 deaths.
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