Think tank calls for a people’s consultative body on Covid-19
Posted 11 Aug. 2020

The “Time Out” call issued recently by physicians’ groups unveils far bigger issues that the Duterte administration must address.

The policy think tank Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) said this on August 6 as it also called for the formation of an independent, broad-based multisectoral consultative body parallel to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) charged with leading the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

The physicians called for a comprehensive strategy in fighting the pandemic, adequate support to health workers, and plugging the holes in contact tracing, work place and public transport safety, among other concerns. Above everything, CenPEG said, leadership issues and institutional flaws that run deep in the Duterte administration should be corrected, including, a military punitive approach to a crisis that is fundamentally a public health issue; high expectation on overburdened and ill-supported frontline health workers without giving them a voice in policy making; and lack of clear objectives in enforcing lockdowns while communities bear with fear in the presence of armored personnel carriers (APCs), armed troops and Special Action Forces (SAFs).

The urgency of re-strategizing the anti-Covid drive and adopting effective measures cannot be overemphasized given our overburdened and endangered health workers and critical facilities, humongous economic losses, the imminent bankruptcy of critical agencies such as PhilHealth due to alleged corruption, and the uncertainty of any safe and efficacious vaccine coming out soon, CenPEG stated.

Dr. Temario C. Rivera, CenPEG’s board chair, challenged the Duterte administration to welcome a broad, citizens’ consultative body to be formed independently by credible public health experts, scientists and academics, and community leaders that will interact parallel to the IATF and DOH. The body will represent medical associations, organizations of health workers, hospitals, as well as national coalitions of communities and will serve as their consolidated voice which is most needed in the continuing emergency response that requires the participation of people from all walks of life, Rivera said.

Rivera’s proposal came up in its latest webinar meeting of CenPEG Fellows together with invited resource persons.

The collective voice of the body will serve as a check and balance to the top-to-bottom, military-oriented approach of the government in fighting the pandemic, Bobby M. Tuazon, CenPEG director for policy studies, said. Indeed science must guide the fight against Covid-19 but the voice of medical experts and scientists is dwarfed and marginalized – if not ignored – at the high level, Tuazon said. Embedding the role of local communities with organized volunteers and health care providers into the national drive against the pandemic proved pivotal in containment strategies of Vietnam, Cuba, and China, Tuazon said.

Aside from the citizens’ consultative body, CenPEG also proposed the following urgent measures:

  1. Giving full play to the role of civil society organizations and NGOs in the LGUs which are once more reminded to serve as the political frontline against the pandemic. Local communities’ response is achievable once the expertise of CSOs and community leaders is engaged based on their track record in disaster mitigation, environment protection, and livelihood programs.
  2. Instead of exclusively relying on the country’s overwhelmed formal medical system and the uncertainty of an anti-Covid vaccine, the government should also systematically promote preventive measures that strengthen peoples’ daily health and immunity including the use of alternative medicine and health practices.
  3. The prompt provision of supplementary financial and food aid to all vulnerable sectors especially the poor communities and the informal workers who will find themselves at a disadvantage once again during the two-week medical quarantine.


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