President Rodrigo Duterte announced last night, March 9, 2020, that classes in all Metro Manila schools are suspended starting March 10 until March 14 due to the threat of COVID-19. As of the latest count, there are 24 people who have contracted the virus.
The announcement was made following a meeting with members of an inter-agency task force including the Cabinet secretaries and National Capital Region (NCR) mayors. Before that, several local government units (LGUs) and schools had already declared suspension.
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte faced backlash for suspending classes only after the meeting, so she took to her personal Facebook account to address her constituents and explain why it took so long to make the announcement.
“I got 20k bashes today for not suspending school in QC before the meeting was over because I knew that the pros and cons were going to be discussed there and that it would be premature to make a decision without knowing all the facts,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
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She adds, “Well, my 20k bashes, even if they were 40k bashes, no longer affect me. In fact, they make me proud because I know I make decisions based on information not on the desire for popularity or acceptance.”
In her post, the mayor explains that the Secretary of Education, Leonor Briones, “argued vehemently against suspension,” saying that children are much safer inside schools, “where they can be monitored by their teachers and principal rather than at home alone while their parents worked, or worse, at the mall.” On the other hand, the Department of Health suggested measures like a lockdown, including suspension of school, work, and transportation for 14 days.
President Duterte believed that the number of people who were positive for COVID-19 were still too low to consider a total lockdown “so he opted for a middle ground — that is school suspension until Saturday.”
“It took him hours to reach that decision,” Mayor Belmonte wrote. “He analyzed. He consulted. He reconsidered his decision once or twice before settling on one he was comfortable with.”
In a report by Manila Bulletin, President Duterte said the decision to suspend classes for four days was to keep the children safe as well as “establish a benchmark kung ilan pa ang madagdagan (how many positive cases will be added). At kung ngayon itong walang klase (if there are no classes), would it somehow reduce the number of victims,” he said.
In her post, Mayor Belmonte reminded her constituents that she would not allow a “mob” to influence her decisions. “People attacked me for being indecisive and weak. On the contrary, I am decisive and strong,” she wrote. “I will decide based on information and sound analysis.”