Palace urged to appoint lone spokesperson for new coronavirus

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 31 2020 05:33 PM

MANILA - Malacañang should designate a lone spokesperson -preferably Health Secretary Francisco Duque III - for updates on 2019 Novel Coronavirus response and monitoring in the Philippines to prevent "an epidemic of fake news and misinformation," a lawmaker said Friday.

In a statement, Sen. Nancy Binay said having too many government officials and those outside government releasing announcements and position papers on the communicable disease breeds "public confusion."

"Ang nakalulungkot, we are also battling an epidemic of fake news and misinformation, tapos kung sinu-sino lamang na di naman bihasa sa public health o may sapat na kaalaman sa sitwasyon patungkol sa n-CoV ang nagsasalita para sa DOH o sa presidente," she said.

(What's sad is we are also battling an epidemic of fake news and misinformation, then we have people who are not experts on public health or who do not have enough knowledge about the situation regarding n-CoV speaking for the DOH or the president.)

She said confusion and misinformation about the new coronavirus strain stems from government officials who have been airing announcements without proper coordination with the Department of Health or even Malacañang, the senator said.

"'Wag muna paepal 'yung iba diyan (These people should not be hogging the scene) because they do not represent the views of doctors or public health specialists," she said, without naming who she was referring to.

"Huwag na nating dagdagan pa ang kaguluhan sa Pilipinas. Public health ang nakasalalay dito," she said.


Sen. Francis Tolentino earlier filed a bill seeking to create a separate DOH office for health announcements.

The proposed "Office of the Surgeon General" will serve "as the national spokesperson on all matters relating to public health in the country, particularly on dangerous diseases, infections and other hazardous conditions affecting the populace," Tolentino's Senate Bill No. 1288 read.

Health officials earlier urged the public to avoid spreading misleading information about the respiratory disease that has left at least 200 people dead and nearly 10,000 others infected across China, where the virus began, other parts of Asia, Europe and North America.