MANILA - Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Thursday praised President Rodrigo Duterte's "willingness to take strong and swift actions" amid criticisms being hurled at the latter for his supposed inability to effectively fight the coronavirus outbreak in the Philippines.
Addressing lawmakers of the House Economic Affairs Committee, Arroyo said Duterte undertakes necessary measures when needed, standing by government’s performance in the COVID-19 fight.
“The first case of COVID-19 was in November of 2019. Now, 7 months later, the global picture for COVID-19 is emerging. As the results now show, I think that we can hold our heads up high given our country’s performance," Arroyo said.
"As of June 24, we have 31,825 cases with 1,186 fatalities or a 3.7 percent fatality ratio. In comparison, the United States has around 2,350,000 cases with around 122,000 fatalities or a fatality ratio of nearly 5.2 percent.
"Globally there are around 8.5 million cases with around 450,000 fatalities or a fatality ratio of 5.3 percent . To all those involved in our fight against COVID-19, thank you for your service to the nation," she said.
Arroyo recalled her when she led the country during the 2003 SARS pandemic, saying "it's easy to criticize when you are seated on the sidelines, but when you are the actual gladiator in the arena, the perspective is very different."
"From the perspective of someone who was heading our government during the SARS crisis, I must say that I have nothing but the highest respect for all of those in our government who are now battling in the arena, from President Duterte, to Secretary Carlito Galvez of the Interagency Task Force, to Health Secretary Francisco Duque, to each and every front liner in the trenches and the checkpoints, many of whom have given their lives in this fight," she said.
"I have the same amount of respect for the 'civilians' so to speak, who have kept the basic wheels of our country going such as by way of delivering goods, manning grocery stores, keeping bank branches open, and keeping city halls and congressional halls functioning,” Arroyo said.
Vice President Leni Robredo, however, said the country has failed to "act urgently" at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
When the health department confirmed the first COVID-19 cases in January, the government "dilly-dallied" with the cancellation of flights to and from China -- where coronavirus first emerged -- and was "not very strict on its implementation," she said.