The heads of the defense and military establishments — tasked to lead the war against Covid-19 — have been sidelined by virus.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Filemon Santos tested positive for coronavirus disease on Thursday while Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is on self-imposed quarantine.

Lorenzana, who is supposed to head the government’s Covid-19 operational command, made the announcement in a message to reporters on Friday, saying he was in close contact with the military chief.

“Good morning, everyone. I shall be on self quarantine effective today. This morning I was informed by CSAFP Gen Santos that he tested positive of the COVID19 – the result he got yesterday,” Lorenzana said.

“I had close proximity with him (Santos) on 2 occasions: in VAB (Villamor Air Base) during the turn over of medical supplies to me last Sunday p.m, 21 March, and again last Monday afternoon 22 March, here in GHQ (General Headquarters) and at the Heroes Hall, Malacañang. I have no symptoms but protocol says I have to self-quarantine for 14 days,” he added.

It was unclear whether Santos was already a person under investigation for the virus, and supposed to be on quarantine, when he went inside the AFP headquarters and Malacañan Palace, the seat of presidential power.

The Palace on Thursday announced that presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez, a former AFP chief, had been designated chief implementer of the government’s Covid-19 policies.

Malacañang spokesman Salvador Panelo defended the president’s decision to put military men in charge of the war against Covid-19.

“The rationale behind the appointment of ex-military men like Secretary Carlito Galvez as Chief Implementor of the national policy against Covid-19, and Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Secretary Eduardo Año as Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively, of the National Action Plan simply lies on their culture of discipline, obedience to superiors, training in organization, tactical strategies in fighting the enemies of the state, and thorough preparedness in organization,” Panelo said on Friday.

“They are not embroiled in bureaucratic rigmaroles. They abhor useless debates, they are silent workers, not voracious talkers. They act without fanfare. They get things done,” he said.

“They will spare no one nor exempt anyone, whether in the private sector or in the government, in applying the law as well as the restrictions imposed by the Constitution in times of national emergency.” (