Villanueva hits 'lack' of clear direction in PH COVID-19 fight

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 23 2020 10:52 PM | Updated as of Jun 23 2020 11:06 PM

MANILA - Sen. Joel Villanueva on Tuesday criticized the Duterte administration's inability to effectively flatten the number of coronavirus cases in the Philippines as infections continue to increase.

“The path to economic recovery has two stumbling blocks at the moment. One, the continuing increase of COVID-19 cases and the lack of a clear set of policies,” Villanueva said in a statement.

He said government efforts will fail as long as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the country, adding the crisis must be accompanied by sufficient assistance for workers.

"Our government must arrest the increase of COVID-19 cases to boost economic activity. As long as the infection trend is upward, all our efforts to restart the economy will fail miserably," he said.

"To achieve all this, our government must not hesitate to spend on our labor force. We must understand that at this point in time, investing in our workers will make or break our country's economic recovery."

Villanueva blamed the alleged lackluster approach in fighting COVID-19 on the "ineffective actions" of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, whom he has been calling on to step down from his post.

Other senators have been calling for the resignation of Duque as COVID-19 cases in the Philippines continue to increase despite a nearly 2-month lockdown in the capital region and other provinces.

Duque, who has long been under fire for various issues including purchasing allegedly overpriced test kits and equipment, is facing a probe along with other health officials by the Office of the Ombudsman.

Duque has said his office will submit documents regarding the Ombudsman's investigation, which also includes looking into supposed delays in the procurement of personal protective equipment and other medical gear for health workers; and "alleged lapses and irregularities" that caused deaths among health workers. 

The DOH's delays in the processing and release of benefits for medical workers who died or got severely ill due to COVID-19, and the "confusing and delayed reporting" of coronavirus cases and deaths are also being investigated.