MANILA— Experts should privately relay to government their suggestions on the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as President Rodrigo Duterte should be "without pressure from the public" in making critical decisions, Malacañang said Wednesday.
The inter-agency task force on pandemic response "never" publicized its recommendations on lockdowns because it would "enable the President to make the correct decision, even if it may be an unpopular decision," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
"We’re talking about people going hungry, people being malnourished because of lack of income. It is in this context that the President should be allowed leeway in deciding what is best for the country," he told CNN Philippines.
"Any recommendation publicly made tends to either influence the President because there will be public opinion generated by the recommendation. We want the President to make the right decision without pressure from the public," he said.
Roque earlier urged the OCTA Research team, composed of experts from the University of the Philippines and the University of Santo Tomas, to refrain from making recommendations publicly.
The group has made regular projections on the country's coronavirus infections. It recently urged the IATF to place Bauan, Batangas; Calbayog, Western Samar; and General Trias, Cavite under stricter lockdowns.
Provincial governors are allowed to decide on the lockdowns of towns together with their regional IATFs, said Roque.
The Philippines is grappling with Southeast Asia’s worst COVID-19 caseload, with 344,713 infections tallied as of Tuesday.