MANILA — Malacañang on Tuesday emphasized the government's milestones in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic after a report said President Rodrigo Duterte issued false claims about the coronavirus during the peak of its spread.
Innovation for Change – East Asia in a report released Monday called out Duterte and his former spokesperson Harry Roque for being "top sources of COVID-19 misinformation" according to fact-checks made on their statements.
Some of the misinformation, the group said, include his remarks that COVID-19 will "die a natural death... even without the vaccines," the public can use gasoline to disinfect in the absence of alcohol, and that COVID-19 is somehow similar with HIV.
"This might also mean that the government is symptomatic of an information problem, one that might have existed way before COVID-19—that it plays fast and loose with facts, disregards expert opinion, and willing to do anything to keep public perception in favor of Mr. Duterte and his allies against all odds," said the report.
Reacting to the report, acting Palace spokesperson Martin Andanar said the public should focus instead on the administration's gains during the health crisis.
Andanar noted the government's vaccination target for the eligible population, which is now at 77 percent, and the growth of the economy by 8.3 percent during this year's first quarter.
"No one in the world knows about COVID-19 during the onset of the pandemic. What is important is our success in balancing the health of the nation and the economy... In the end, what is important are our milestones," Andanar, also Duterte's Communications Secretary, said in a Palace briefing.
"We have surpassed the pre-pandemic growth levels... at ito po ang mas mahalaga na tingnan (this is what's important to look at)," he added.
The Philippines has one of the longest lockdowns in the world, but most COVID-19 restrictions have already been lifted to revive the pandemic-hit economy.
In April, government approved the entry of all fully vaccinated travelers months after the country struggled to contain the spread of the omicron variant.
Recently, subvariants of the omicron have been detected in the Philippines, although an expert said they are finding it hard to enter the country's "wall of immunity."
Malacañang earlier vowed that the country would achieve the so-called "new normal" and fully vaccinate 90 million of the eligible population from COVID-19 before Duterte steps down by end-June.