Wed, 27 Jan 2021

Rappler looks into Duterte's many task forces

04 Dec 2020, 20:13 GMT+10

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THE GOVERNMENT is not new to national task forces, special bodies formed by the president to address urgent matters. President Duterte has created 16 task forces so far, perhaps more than any of his predecessors had done.

Obviously, task forces are only as good as the people running them. Those created by Duterte reflect the quality of the people he has appointed to do the work and have nothing to do with the concept of the task force itself.

CMFR cheers for pointing out the swelling number of task forces under the Duterte administration and what these indicate about the capacity of government to solve major problems and resolve critical issues.

The news site's in-depth report "What Duterte's 15 (and counting) task forces say about government," published on November 17, enumerated the task forces, 15 before the latest "Build Back Better Task Force," which Duterte created via Executive Order 120 to address the devastation caused by recent typhoons.

Referring to various sources, the report gave the background of task forces as a mechanism of government. Herman Kraft, chair of the University of the Philippines' political science department, said task forces are good for "multifaceted issues" that require action from "more than one office." Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque explained that task forces provide the president the use of a single chain of command.

The report also described the use of the task force by previous presidents. Benigno Aquino III's task forces tackled separately the aftermath of super typhoons Pablo and Yolanda, the challenges faced by the country in the West Philippine Sea, and one on emerging infectious diseases, which is still active under the DOH. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's took on climate change, "streamlined" anti-crime efforts, and protected Filipino entertainers from Japan from exploitation, among others.

Citing Kraft, the report said the need to constantly create task forces shows an inclination toward the ad hoc approach to finding solutions to what may be continuing problems, straining the existing agencies as these funnel funds into task forces, defunding their own programs as a result.

Rappler shed light on the role of task forces as a mechanism of government response, clarifying its usefulness in addressing a particular problem that seems bigger than what agencies have had to address on their own.

The need to create a task force indicates the insufficiency, if not the complete failure, of existing agencies and councils, the report observed, pointing out that the NDRRMC comprises the same agencies as those in the past and present typhoon task forces. The article cited views about how the capacity of the council to respond is not enough when dealing with extremely destructive storms.

The report should move journalists to follow up on how the different Duterte task forces are working, as so many task forces will not be equal in performance. Not every crisis or emergency situation requires a task force. Journalists familiar with various agencies should be ready to check on the actual necessity of yet another task force and point out if, perhaps, this has become government's knee-jerk response.

The Duterte-formed National Task Force Against COVID-19, for example, should be more closely evaluated for its success - or lack thereof - in making Filipinos safer from COVID-19 and how it has stopped or slowed, at all, the spread of the contagion.

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