MANILA - Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Monday filed a resolution seeking to look into Malacañang's decision to assign Cabinet members to supervise the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response of several cities and provinces, saying the "micromanagement" strategy has been interfering with the local government unit's autonomy.
Under Senate Resolution No. 495, Hontiveros questioned the capacity of several members of the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) on COVID-19 in spearheading the fight against the pandemic.
"Many, if not most of these IATF members, while arguably experts in their respective fields, are not experts in health system performance, critical care capacity, as well as surveillance, isolation, and treatment protocols," Hontiveros said.
"What LGUs need now is a coherent COVID management strategy that provides specific direction... instead of hand-holding by individual members of the IATF with no background in local government or pandemic response," she said.
Under IATF Resolution No. 62, several Cabinet members were asked to act as "big brothers and sisters" of local officials in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, where COVID-19 cases remain high.
"This is toxic micromanagement. There are even reports that cabinet members intervene at the barangay level," Hontiveros said.
"It is also rather imprudent to assign these members to monitor LGUs when IATF as a body has already been saddled with controversies involving its policy decisions and pronouncements, the accuracy and integrity of the data reported, and even some allegedly anomalous procurement-related transactions," she said.
If the national government cannot provide additional funds for local governments, it should not meddle with the policies of officials on the ground, opposition Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan said in a statement.
"I don't see how giving the national government more powers over the LGUs will help. It will be another layer in the already highly-centralized yet ineffective COVID-19 response," he said.
"Why give more powers to those whose performance leaves much to be desired?" he asked.
Hontiveros noted that some of the IATF's policies have been marred with controversy, including the release of inaccurate data, and a wrong pronouncement that the Philippines is already on its "second wave" of COVID-19 cases.
While the resolution has yet to be referred to a Senate committee, Hontiveros appealed to the national government to "trust" local officials in handling the COVID-19 situation in their respective jurisdictions.
"Ang mga mayor ang mas may alam at matagal nang umaaksyon sa ground... Sana huwag mawalan ng kumpiyansa ang ating mga mayor dahil sa walang basehan na panghihimasok na ito," she said.
(The mayors know more about their areas because they are the ones in action on the ground... I hope they do not lose confidence because of this baseless interference.)
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque had said the move was meant to "harmonize" the government's strategy, ensuring close coordination between the national and the local government in responding to the pandemic.
As of mid-August, the Philippines has the highest number of to be the COVID-19 epicenter in southeast Asia with 161,253 cases.