EDITORIAL: Calls For Accountability

Certain quarters are now raising issues about the accountability of the World Health Organization (WHO) surrounding the worldwide crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Most of them point accusing fingers to the top officials for gross negligence in failing to detect the deadly virus which until now remains a mystery, for which reason invention of vaccines against it continues to drag on.

Globally, the most serious accusation comes from United States of America President Donald Trump who claims that Covid-19 first claimed its victims in Wuhan, China. He says that the virus leaked either by design or by accident from a scientific laboratory in that city.

China vehemently denies Trump’s accusation. The word war continues to rage to the extent that the head of the most powerful country in the world has threatened to stop contributing to the WHO funds, because the international agency allows itself to be in connivance with China.

Whether Trump’s claim is true or not remains to be seen. And considering that 2020 is an election year in the USA, there is every reason to suspect that he is using the pandemic situation in order to gain political advantage.

Within the domestic front, calls for accountability should not be treated dismissively. Republic Act No. 11332, otherwise known as the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Concern Act deliberations took place starting July 23, 2018. This Act was passed by the Senate as Senate Bill No.2186 on February 4, 2019 and adopted by the House of Representatives as HB no.7134 on February 8, 2019. President Rodrigo Duterte approved it on April 26, 2019.

In plain, R.A 11332 already attained its operative effect sometime in mid 2019.How come then that no information drive has ever been launched almost ten months prior to the declaration of a Luzonwide community lockdown? Even the existence and operationalization of the Integrated Agency Task Force as provided in R.A 11332 never merited massive information campaign.

The general public only became aware about what was then a virus of mysterious nature which only started having an identity in the later part of January , 2020,after the cases of two Chinese tourists got attention somewhere in the Negros provinces. It was also then that the IATF acquired functional existence.

It is to be noted that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III became subject of widespread bashing following his claim that the nation is now in the second wave, with the explanation that the first wave got detected upon discovery of the tourists from Wuhan.

And now comes the clarification that the Covid-19 cases in the country did not directly originate from Wuhan but from Australia via India, from China. Which is which now? Even the Senate and the House owe the people an explanation.

Section 2 (Declaration of Policy) of R.A 11332)provides in substance that the State shall endeavor to protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them as an effective response system in compliance with the 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR) of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Obviously WHO had a very active role in the passage and approval of R.A 11332. Given the critical importance of the piece of legislation, it should have merited a more painstaking deliberation. As it now appears, R.A 11332 had been accorded a cavalier treatment. Probably they did not see an opportunity for money making. Nobody seemed to bother in asking WHO to provide details about the proposed law so that the people may not be caught flat footed and dumb founded. All of the parties concerned should be held accountable.