Duterte defends appointment of ex-military men to pandemic task force

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte defended his decision to appoint retired military officials to lead the public health crisis due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

In his public address late Wednesday, Duterte said those leading the fight against the pandemic need not be doctors.

“Kayo nagtatanong bakit kaya masyadong atat sa military wala mang alam ‘yan? Hindi man ito — this is a mechanical act (To those asking why I want military when they know nothing? This is not — this is a mechanical act).”

“It is not a study of medicine. Ano ito parang transaction sa negosyo kaya tinawag ko si [Carlito] Galvez [Jr.] , Secretary, para siya ang magdala (this is more of a business transaction that’s why I called Galvez, Secretary, to lead).”

“You need not be a doctor here because you are transacting a business. It is not really a matter of medical science that you are talking of,” Duterte said.

Duterte named Galvez vaccine czar and chief implementer of the National Task Force against Covid-19, the implementing arm of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

Aside from Galvez, retired army generals Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año were also appointed heads of the NTF as chairman and vice chairman, respectively.

Aside from military officials, Duterte has also appointed Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, a retired police general, to lead contact tracing efforts of the government.

Earlier this week, some lawmakers called for the abolition of the IATF-EID and the appointment of competent people in the pandemic task force as the country’s Covid-19 cases continue to rise.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the IATF-EID will not be abolished, saying it is composed of “best minds and talents of the government.”

Roque dismissed criticisms against the IATF-EID and the NTF as mere politicking.