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Focus on health, free mass testing: bishops tell government

A group of bishops in Luzon expressed doubt over the government’s capability to effectively arrest the COVID19 pandemic despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s emergency powers.

The 8 bishops who compose the South Central Luzon Bishops Conference of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) believe there is no stopping the outbreak unless the government gives priority attention to free mass testing in the country.

“No matter how much power concentrates on the hands of the president at this point, a problem will continue to fester if the priority is incorrect. The priority should be a health system that can administer free and massive testing and treatment,” said the bishops in a statement on March 27.

The statement was issued two days after the House of Representatives and the Senate, in a special session on March 25, voted to grant President Duterte emergency powers to combat the COVID19 pandemic.

The bishops said they are also apprehensive that the president may abuse his emergency powers, referencing his propensity for militarist solutions and indifference to human rights.

What the government should do, according to the bishops, is to provide food and medical assistance to affected individuals, families and communities. “The priority should be honest-to-goodness support for the key-affected population,” they said.

The bishops lamented that the pandemic was made more complex because of issues of corruption, inequity and indifference to the people’s legitimate demands. The government’s response to be impactful, they said, should demonstrate greater transparency and incorruptibility.

“This government’s redemption lies in discerning that this public health crisis is about saving our people’s lives and serving their welfare,” concluded the bishops’ statement.

(Photo by The STAR/Michael Varcas)

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