Editorial: Accountability

“YOU cannot fool the President. (There are) a lot of intelligence officers here. The numbers will not lie, so check.”

This was Secretary Michael Dino of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas in trying to parry an issue packed in a question a media member threw at him during the press conference with Cabinet officials on Tuesday, June 23, 2020.

Unfortunately for him, his statement is apparently true, and thus, President Rodrigo Duterte decided to revert Cebu City to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), not quite a dream-come-true for the secretary, who had been trying to sell a brighter, but nevertheless partial, picture of Cebu City’s Covid-19 scenario.

We imagine the relief our local officials felt when Secretary Eduardo Año, of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, said there won’t be any investigation on how the crisis had been handled, but rather an assessment and evaluation of the current state of Cebu, which will be basis for subsequent actions, will be done. Perhaps, understandably so because the more urgent concern now is setting the brakes in the acceleration of cases in our part of the world. Besides, the responding team is in Cebu pursuant to Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases’ (IATF-MEID) Resolution 47, dated June 19, 2020.

Año earlier explained Cebu City’s ECQ in an interview over CNN: “This is not a spontaneous or emotional decision...We are seeing what would happen if we do not impose an ECQ. In fact, this is supported by data analytics presented by the technical working group. Kung merong magkaibang figure ang (If there are conflicting figures in) Cebu City, I advise them to look at it carefully and get the real facts from the ground.”

Meanwhile, in an interview over Bombo Radyo Cebu on June 22, 2020, Vice Mayor Michael Rama had reiterated his views on how the Cebu City figures have been under-reported. To recall, he had been venting his frustrations since April that the City Council has repeatedly been cold-shouldered from the executive department’s actions in the management of the Covid-19 crisis.

In April, as well, Rama had criticized the City for the alleged delay in the transfer of Covid patients from Sitio Zapatera to the barangay isolation center, roughly a week after over a hundred cases of infection were reported. He also pointed out the delay in the installation of the quarantine facilities, wasting away the supposed lead time earlier into the pandemic. The City Council as early as January, he said, had already “called the executive department to start the preparations.”

When this crisis wanes into manageable level and when the state of affairs return to a semblance of normalcy, we do hope for a proper accounting of what took place in the management of this crisis. More than missed opportunities, there might have been deliberate actions to muddle things up by interest groups. There has been terrible noise that worsened with government’s apparent disinterest for clarity and transparency. While it projected all this time its air of confidence that it is on top of the crisis, things blew up in our faces like doomsday from nowhere.