House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano addressed the widely criticized and now-viral “We went to work for you” signboard held up by him and other congressmen and cabinet members yesterday, saying he would do it again if it gets people to stay home and curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
Yesterday, Cayetano led a special session at the House of Representatives to tackle the country’s response on the pandemic, which included voting to grant President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to solve the health crisis. But the extraordinary measure took a back seat to the controversy over photos of the swaggering signboard, which many on social media characterized as tasteless political grandstanding.
The sign, made out of cut-out words glued to a sheet of paper, read: “Together with doctors and frontliners, we went to work for you, so please stay home for us.” Cayetano and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea can be seen holding up one of the two (crafty) identical signs below.
Netizens lambasted (and cringed pretty hard at) the photos, saying they were in poor taste, while pointing out that creating and handling sign carried its own risks for potentially spreading the virus.
Naturally, netizens also reproduced their own photoshopped versions of the pic, including one in which Cayetano and Medialdea hold up a sign reading “Kaldero 4 Sale P100 Million,” throwing shade at the controversial PHP50 million (US$981,200) single-use cauldron greenlit by the congressman for the Southeast Asian Games last November, much to the public’s chagrin.
Following the criticism of the photo op, Cayetano delivered a speech Monday midnight, saying, “If you ask me to hold up a sign again, and even if the sign curses at me but it gets people to read and gets people to stay home, I will do it again and again and again,” Rappler reports.
“We meant well. Now if people will criticize us for meaning well, as long as we know what we did was right, then that’s OK,” Cayetano added in English and Filipino.
The congressman went on to say that “this is not the time for politicking” (uhh, that’s kinda what we thought that sign was, but whatever), and urged people not to “weaponize COVID-19” and to just trust President Rodrigo Duterte’s actions.
“We have a leader. For me, it’s my choice to trust him,” a defensive Cayetano continued, going on to call measures to contain COVID-19 an act of war.
“It’s a war. Did anyone here predict the war? You’re saying government is not prepared? Well, where was your plan for us to be prepared?”
Rappler also quoted Cayetano as accusing unnamed parties of “spreading fake news about the lack of PPEs,” or personal protective equipment, going on to suggest that misinformation being spread about a lack of PPEs in places where there was none was confusing donors and exacerbating the problem in places where the shortage is actually a problem.
“It’s bad for the [areas] who are truly lacking. It’s bad for people who are actually experiencing shortage. People now don’t know where to give,” Cayetano added in Filipino.
The speaker stopped short of naming names, but “PPEs” have been among the country’s top trending topics today on Twitter after several hospitals in the capital region said that they are running out of protective gear for their staff, who are among those at highest risk of contracting COVID-19. Leaders from multiple Metro Manila hospitals have also told the Health Department that many of their personnel have been forced to go into quarantine themselves, and are overwhelmed by a surge in patients.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly suggested House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano had dismissed reports of a shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPEs, as “fake news.” In fact, he was making a different point about false reports leading to misdirected donations. This story has been updated to clarify Cayetano’s statement. Coconuts Manila apologizes for any confusion caused.
This article, ‘I will do it again’: Cayetano defends ‘we went to work for you’ signboard stunt (UPDATED), originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!