COMMENTARY: A move against transparency
Given the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the country, it is important more than ever for the public to have timely access to COVID-19 statistics in as many ways as possible, including through social media platforms.
According to the Digital News Report 2021 released by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 72% of Filipinos now get their news through social media. Having that information will help Filipinos in navigating their everyday life during these uncertain times.
It is also worth pointing out that Article III, section 7 of the 1987 Constitution stipulates that “The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized.”
Therefore, the announcement of the Department of Health (DOH) last December 27, 2021 that it will stop issuing its daily COVID-19 case bulletin over social media starting January 1, 2022 caught everyone by surprise.
“To streamline public communication, the case bulletin and the daily situation report will no longer be issued separately,” the agency said in a statement as reported by The Philippine Star.
For his part, acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles justified this move by saying that the government is now focused on vaccination. That’s a questionable justification because the government can and should be able to continue giving the public updated information regarding COVID-19 while ramping up its vaccination efforts.
Although the DOH eventually announced that it will continue to issue the daily case bulletins, it is still necessary to emphasize that it was wrong to even consider doing so in the first place.
During this COVID-19 health crisis, it is important for the government to do everything that it can to be trusted by the public. One way to accomplish this is by being transparent in releasing relevant information to the public in a timely manner. The DOH should therefore continue releasing its daily COVID-19 case bulletin for as long as we are still in this pandemic.