Church leaders open to extension of Philippine lockdown, if it’s for common good

At least three Catholic bishops have expressed support for the possible extension of the “enhanced community quarantine” imposed by Philippine authorities last month.

On March 16, President Rodrigo Duterte declared a lockdown of the main island of Luzon, including Metro Manila, restricting the movement of the population.

Other provinces across the country followed suit in response to the growing pandemic caused by the new coronavirus disease or COVID-19.

The quarantine period is expected to last until the middle of April, although authorities are reportedly considering to either extend or lift it.

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, said the decision to lift or extend the lockdown should be decided according to “medical evidence.”

For Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao, the “common good” should determine whatever decision authorities would come up.

“We are always concerned for the common good. If that is necessary for the common good to prevent the spread of virus, why not,” said the prelate.

Bishop Oscar Florencio, vice chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Health Care of the bishops’ conference, said the government should decide on the matter because “they know better.”

“Personally, I want for this quarantine to end,” he said. “But I guess it’s not within my capacity to decide nor give suggestion because I am not an expert on this,” added the bishop.

“All I can say is for the government to tell us and we will follow because at this point in time they know better than us,” he added.

Bishop Florencio, who is also current bishop of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines, said the best interest of all should be served.

“We have no other better guardian of the common good than the government and the other agencies to which this crisis is entrusted,” he said.

‘Life over money’

Earlier this week, Filipino business tycoon Ramon Ang downplayed the negative impact of the “enhanced community quarantine” on businesses, saying he’ll “choose life over money.”

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Ang said “what is more important are lives, not money.”

“We can make money again but life, once you lose it, it’s gone forever. So between life and money, I’d choose life,” he added.

The president of San Miguel Corporation said he supports the extension of the enhanced community quarantine if that means saving more lives from COVID-19.

A legislator has earlier proposed to extend the lockdown, arguing that the Philippines is still grappling with the health crisis.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on the coronavirus has already ordered its technical working group to finalize guidelines on the extension, expansion, modification, or lifting of the 30-day “enhanced community quarantine” due to end on Easter Sunday, April 12.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles has earlier said that some targets the government wanted to achieve by April 12 were to contain the spread of the coronavirus, identify communities with no cases, and isolate communities with confirmed cases.

The official said the government also wanted to start focusing on treatment and recoveries and sustain a record of “no new cases.”

A police officer checks the body temperature of a motorist who passed by a checkpoint in the Philippine capital during the “enhanced community quarantine.” (Photo by Basilio Sepe)

Former health secretary Manuel Dayrit earlier warned cases were likely to surge when the lockdown period ends on April 12.

When the lockdown began on midnight of March 17, the country had 140 cases. As of April 2, that number that soared to 2,633. The confirmed cases include 107 deaths and 51 recoveries.

Nograles said that when it comes to reviewing lockdown measures in place, “science is in charge.” He denied reports circulating that the government had already decided to extend quarantine measures for 60 days.

Mass testing to begin

The government is expected to start its mass testing of suspected COVID-19 cases on April 14.

This was announced by Secretary Carlito Galvez, chief implementor of the national action plan against the pandemic.

He said the government is “determined to fast track the accreditation of subnational laboratories so we can start the massive testing.”

He assured the public that the government is “on top of the situation, as we band together to fight this deadly disease that is testing our resolve as a nation.”

In a media briefing aired on national television, Galvez told medical professionals that the government will provide equipment and logistical support to perform their duties.

He also said that the government will open convention centers and sports complexes in the coming days to serve as quarantine facilities.

“We are facing an unprecedented health crisis, which will require the full cooperation and support of all sectors of the community. We are relying on all of you,” he said.

For weeks now, various sectors have been calling for the mass testing of people to ensure the containment of the disease.

The country is on its third week of a lockdown in Luzon, where most cases have been confirmed.

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