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Good job vs good spin? Amid rising COVID-19 infection rates, gov't maintains it's doing a good job

By Bim Santos Published Mar 11, 2021 10:45 am

Almost a year after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the first lockdown in March, 15, 2020 and cases are increasing anew, but the government has been maintaining that they are doing a good job in managing the situation.

“We have been managing COVID-19 very well,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a briefing today.

Roque made the statement as the Department of Health (DOH) has been reporting record-high numbers of new COVID-19 infections, with additional cases going north of 3,000 since March 5. 

Today, new COVID-19 infections shot up to 3,749, which was the highest in almost six months. 

The rise in cases comes after the DOH reported the presence of new coronavirus variants in the country, namely the South African and UK variants.

The country’s positivity rate, or the number of individuals who tested positive out of the total individuals tested, has now inched back to 11.4% from a low of 4.1% last December.

But the DOH is not attributing the recent spike to the new variants. DOH Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire has said that non-compliance with COVID-19 health protocols by the public may be the underlying cause.

Dindo Manhit, founder and managing director of the consultancy firm Stratbase Group, said the government’s statements regarding COVID-19 seems at odds with the real situation.

“I guess it’s the nature of governance to say that you are doing a good job but para lang tayong nadadala ng spin over facts,” said Manhit. “There’s just confusion about our situation as the government has been claiming we are successful against COVID but we just have this environment of fear. One year into this, but we are still in a continuing health crisis.”

“Bakit palaging kasalanan ng tao? They locked us down, people are hungry, we have the worst unemployment recently, but still kasalanan pa rin ng tao,” Manhit added.

Belle Tiongco, president of the International Association of Business Communicators Philippines, noted that the government was even “very fortunate because Filipinos were largely cooperative.”

“Everyone wears masks and shields. You don’t see people fighting in the supermarket because someone refuses to wear a mask because he wants to protect his human right, which is an everyday issue in America, in the UK,” said Tiongco.

But Tiongco likewise noted lapses in the government’s communication of the COVID-19 situation to the public, from no less than the president himself.

“The early communications of the President himself, when he tried to ‘talk down’ the virus and COVID-19 and the pandemic; tried humor (beerus) in an effort to tone down its deathly power. People were dying, it’s insensitive and improper.  Every death is devastating and should not be clothed in humor,” Tiongco said.

But despite the communication missteps from the government, Tiongco said that “Heal as One was a good communications campaign, thanks also to the benevolent support of the private sector.”

"I have just gone through a hundred Covid related campaigns and the messaging was consistent, and cooperative.  You can say that the message was actually – be careful, be kind, be patient. And yes, we complied. We’re even just patiently waiting for our vaccines!” said Tiongco.