President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that his administration was able to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the country “in a very much earlier span of time” in his weekly address on Monday.
The chief executive in his pre-recorded “Talk to the People” said that the Philippines seemed to be over with the “big problem about the COVID-19.”
This came as the country continues to record relatively low numbers of new infections as of June 3, although there was a slight uptick weeks ago.
“We are about to end our story dito sa governance ko sa panahon ko. Parang natapos rin natin ‘yung big problem about the COVID-19. While other countries were grappling still, they were the ones who had the vaccines first,” Duterte said.
He added while other countries did away with face masks earlier on, the Philippines continues to mandate it which he said will be “very healthy” if it will be maintained “a little bit longer.”
“Masuwerte rin ako patapos na ako itong buwan na ‘to. Eh napakababa na ho ‘yung number of cases. So it’s a… If I were to judge myself, the one single thing that my government did was to contain COVID-19 in a very much earlier span of time,” Duterte said.
“And to think na iyong iba sa ngayon, nagkakaroon ng surge simply because maybe the citizens of that country do not want to follow regulations,” he added.
The president’s comments were met with rebuttals from some Filipinos who recalled how his administration initially reacted when the pandemic was in its early stages.
“Hindi totoo. Pinabayaan niyong kumalat ang virus. As early as January 2020, you didn’t take this virus seriously at nakita niyo ang effect nun nung nag-imposed kayo ng lockdown. Please revisit the numbers kung ilan ang mga nagkasakit at namatay,” a Twitter user said.
“Sino ulit ang pinakamahaba ang lockdown sa buong mundo?” another online user commented, referring to the Philippines.
“I hope people will never forget that our borders were not closed earlier because they didn’t want to hurt (China flag)’s feelings,” a different Filipino pointed out.
When the country recorded its very first cases of the novel coronavirus disease (then known as nCoV) in the country, it took Duterte days before he finally addressed the topic.
When he shared his response, it was perceived to favor the country’s relations with the Chinese government instead.
Duterte at that time said that “everything is well” and told off people to stop fostering supposed anti-Chinese sentiments.
He also said that the virus was “not really that fearsome.”
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III also said before that doing preemptive measures would be supposedly unfair to Chinese tourists.
The Duterte administration was also questioned for delaying the travel ban against China’s Hubei Province despite it being on lockdown at that time already. The province is where Wuhan City is located, the ground zero of the outbreak.
The first death related to the viral disease outside China was also logged in the Philippines.
Duterte also tapped some people with no medical background to key posts in the government spearheading the COVID-19 response.
Among them are former environmental chief Roy Cimatu, defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana and former BCDA president Vince Dizon.
Duque, considered an alter ego of the president as an executive department head, was also hounded with repeated calls to resign due to his supposed “lack of competence, efficiency, and foresight bordering on negligence in handling the health crisis.”