Filipino online users juxtaposed the command responsibility of the governments of India and the Philippines during the COVID-19 pandemic after the former’s ruling party leader took responsibility for the outbreak in their country.
The spokesperson of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday said that their country’s current second wave is “first and foremost,” the government’s “responsibility.”
“We are in power, we are the government in India so of course, responsibility is first and foremost, ours, good or bad, whatever it is. It is our responsibility and we’re trying our very level best,” BJP spokesperson Narendra Taneja told CNN.
However, Taneja also argued that the current health crisis was unpredictable.
“A lot of people are saying that… we knew in February. At that time, scientists and doctors were more or less of the same view,” Taneja said.
“Evidently something went wrong, evidently we were hit by a tsunami, and as you know, you’re often not aware. In most cases, 80-90% reasons could be external. We don’t know. We don’t want to blame anybody. We know we’re in power, we are responsible… our focus is now on how we can save lives,” he added.
India is currently experiencing the world’s “worst COVID-19 outbreaks” recently, logging in 386,452 new cases on Friday.
Trackers show that its active case count is nearly 3.2 million, while the total COVID-19 case reaches over 18 million.
It holds the second-highest number of total coronavirus infections in the world, next to the United States.
Brazil is in the third spot.
Prediction models show that India’s daily death toll could continue to rise until the middle of May and that it could peak at more than 13,000 new fatalities a day.
Other countries such as Romania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Bangladesh, France, Ireland and Bhutan have stepped in to deliver emergency aid.
Pandemic-stricken Philippines under Duterte
A screenshot of an article reporting Taneja’s interview made its way to the trending list of local Reddit on Friday, where an uploader wondered if the Philippine government would also “take responsibility” for COVID-19 outbreak.
Others answered the uploader’s question by referencing some Philippine officials’ words about the government’s COVID-19 response with sarcasm.
“Dalawa lang ang nasa isip na options ng politiko sa’tin: ‘We are doing an excellent job,’ ‘Kasalanan ng mga mamamayan,” another online user responded.
The “excellent” remark was previously uttered by Duterte’s spokesperson. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque claimed that the Philippines’ COVID-19 response is successful—despite figures telling otherwise—compared to the United States.
Meanwhile, the “kasalanan ng mga mamamayan” is a reference to the government’s “pasaway” narrative. Government is perceived to blame citizens for the surge in COVID-19 cases for supposedly violating quarantine protocols.
However, mobility data from Google and Apple last year showed that it was the opposite.
Earlier this month, Duterte’s “hindi tayo nagkulang” remark was countered by some Filipinos who pointed out that the government wasn’t able to immediately impose a travel ban on China last year.
A health group and other Filipinos have also admitted that they can no longer feel the president’s presence amid the public health crisis.
The country’s health secretary has likewise been swarmed by various resignation calls—including from administration-allied senators—since last year due to his handling of the pandemic in the country.
Last February, the government received the lowest approval rating in terms of COVID-19 response among Southeast Asian countries.
It was based on a survey by Singapore-based ASEAN Studies Centre in which majority of its Filipino respondents in the policy, research, business, civil society and media communities expressed disapproval.
Duterte in his April 15 speech assured the citizens that his administration is doing everything it can to mitigate the medical and socio-economic impact of the pandemic.
“Do not be afraid. Government is working. Government is busy doing everything, not nothing. Government is trying to get the things to fix all of us,” he said.
“Iyong mga bagay ngayon nandiyan, pero wala sa ating mga kamay. Nandiyan ang bakuna, hindi sa ating kamay. Sa kamay ng ibang tao. And this will go I think, before it gets better, we’ll have to go to the worst of times,” Duterte added.
The country is negotiating with vaccine manufacturers Sinovac Biotech Ltd., Sinopharm, Pfizer Inc., Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, and Gamaleya Research Institute to procure enough doses to cover 70 percent of the country’s adult population.