President Duterte should be given leeway to decide on the government’s pandemic response, including the country’s quarantine level, without the pressure of public opinion, Malacañang said Wednesday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the pronouncement to explain his appeal to a local research group to refrain from publicizing their recommendations and instead quietly send them to the pandemic task force.

Harry Roque Jan 4 18 - ‘Give Duterte leeway to decide on pandemic response’ — Roque
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

The OCTA Research team earlier recommended to place three places under stricter lockdown due to a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

“If you noticed, whenever there is a change in classification, the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases) makes a recommendation to the President. We never publicize what the recommendations are, and we allow the President to make his decision,” Roque said over CNN Philippines 

“Why is it important that these recommendations not be made public? Because it will enable the President to make the correct decision even if it may be an unpopular decision,” he said.

He noted that the task force has kept a “consistent policy” of letting the President decide whenever it makes recommendations about the risk classification of an area. He said they gather data related to the coronavirus situation, consult local government units, present the recommendation to the President in private, and let him decide based “on what is best for the national interest.”

“Health consideration is very important, but as you know, we’re now at the point where we’re not talking about the economy, we’re talking about people going hungry, people being malnourished because of lack of income. So it is in this context that the President should be allowed leeway in deciding what is best for the country,” he said.

“Any recommendation publicly made tends to either influence the President because there will be public opinion generated by the recommendation, and we want the President to make the right decision without pressure from public opinion,” he said.

Roque earlier said he appreciates the OCTA Research team’s efforts to monitor coronavirus cases but urged the group to refrain from making public their recommendations to avoid confusion. He said they should instead submit to the IATF their recommendations in private. Besides, he said the concerned local government officials are empowered to decide on lockdown levels in coordination with the regional IATF.

The OCTA Research team has recommended that the government implement stricter lockdown measures in Bauan in Batangas, Calbayog in Western Samar, and General Trias in Cavite due to an increase in coronavirus cases in the past two weeks. More stringent restrictions must also be applied in areas with limited hospital capacity or hospital occupancy rates higher than 70 percent, the group said.

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