Palace says Bong Go never attended COVID-19 task force's meetings

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 20 2021 03:50 PM | Updated as of Oct 20 2021 04:16 PM

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is assisted by Senator Christopher Lawrence
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is assisted by Senator Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go during a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Palace on October 6, 2021. King Rodriguez, Presidential Photo

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte's close ally Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go has never attended a meeting of the inter-agency task force that leads the country's COVID-19 response, Malacañang clarified on Wednesday.

IATF meetings "are always secret" and attended by members of the Cabinet and experts, said Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque.

He said Go is only "an observer" at the President's taped addresses dubbed "Talk to the People", during which some IATF members report pandemic updates. 

"Most of the time he’s (Go) quiet. You can count with your fingers the time he had an intervention in the Talk to the People. But when he did, it was because he’s chairman on the Senate committee on health," he told the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.

Roque added that experts consulted by the IATF "are simply that: experts and scientists."

"They are divorced completely from politics... They’re insulated from politics and absolutely professional, although sometimes, very narrow-minded because some medical professionals insist on lockdowns as the ultimate solution," he said. 

Asked if other senators would be urged to join the Talk to the People, Roque said, "Everyone’s invited to observe because it’s publicly broadcasted." 

Duterte has spent a huge chunk of his recent speeches discrediting senators over their investigation of alleged anomalies in government's procurement of pandemic supplies. 

Roque said he hoped Duterte would continue discussing the probe in his speeches "because it makes my job easier." 

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