Home Editors' Picks Revisiting the lockdown, the role of CDC PH and Doc Iggy Agbayani

Revisiting the lockdown, the role of CDC PH and Doc Iggy Agbayani


My Cup Of Liberty

“This pandemic has uncovered a sickness not just of the virus but of our society. There is a palpable bias by social media platforms, health institutions, some health experts, health regulators, and some political leaders against a whole array of means and medicine with potential for prevention and cure, cheap, readily available, proven safe and effective measures against COVID-19… Instead, we have guidelines that are generally ineffective, expensive and relatively unsafe such as Remdesivir, lockdowns of business and face-to-face schools, irrational quarantines… This nefarious reaction to a health crisis is largely driven by profit and an undemocratic agenda of the powerful corporations and individuals. It is time to act now for the sake of our country and our children. So may God help us all.” — Dr. Benigno “Doc Iggy” Agbayani, Jr., Founding President, Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDC PH), presentation at the public hearing of Committee on Good Government and Accountability, House of Representatives, May 17, 2021.

“The state should not have any power [over] its citizens if it can’t be made accountable for a harm it is causing. Remove the immunity from litigation from injury caused by an experimental vaccination and consent induced by force or coercion and incomplete or false information… The drug makers, administering doctors, government are all exempted from legal liabilities in case of Covax injuries and/or death.” — Doc Iggy Agbayani, Twitter, Feb. 15, 2022.

On Oct. 5, Doc Iggy passed away. CDC PH issued a statement that day and said, “Under his leadership, CDC PH became a beacon of light for many Filipinos during the darkest day of the pandemic, giving them hope and courage instead of fear, and averting numerous hospitalizations and deaths.

“Very few know that Doc Iggy opted to step down from the presidency of CDC PH when an old malpractice suit filed against him that had been in the court system for years was suddenly resurrected. This was not long after he began to speak up for the millions of us Filipinos who were being forced to give up our Constitutional rights and liberties, adopt unscientific medical protocols, and ingest insufficiently tested medicines for what has now been proven to be a highly suspect and extremely politicized virus.

“Sadly, not only was the old case made to suddenly move forward at record speed, but it also resulted in his conviction despite all indications of his innocence. Because he knew he had done no wrong, Doc Iggy refused to seek a pardon or apply for parole as it would affirm his conviction and sentence as either fair or just. They were neither.”

In September 2020, CDC PH was formed with one clear goal: to flatten the fear via early treatment of vulnerable people and lift the lockdown. It was the first big anti-lockdown group in the country and Doc Iggy was the first president.

I joined CDC PH about one week after its launching. They needed a volunteer economist to help them understand the economic damage of the lockdown. And I have been critical and opposed to the lockdown since its imposition in mid-March 2020. I wrote several columns on it in BusinessWorld in 2020: “End the lockdown, no more extension” (April 22), “Inter-Agency to Terminate Functional businesses (IATF)” (June 10, when Philippines’ unemployment rate jumped from 5.3% in January to 17.7% in April), “Economic hardships worse than virus risks” (July 15), “Flatten the fear and hysteria, not the economy” (Sept. 23), “GDP contraction, CDC PH, and medicine taxes” (Nov. 11, when GDP growth in 2020 was -0.7% in Q1, -16.9% in Q2, and -11.5% in Q3).

The horrible lockdown policies by the Philippine government and its consultants and experts caused the economy to contract by 9.5% in 2020 – the worst in Asia that year, and the worst Philippines economic performance after WW2. Government shutdown of many tax-paying businesses and public transportation caused massive unemployment and economic deprivation among people in the private sector. But government personnel, from national to barangay level, received all their salaries, bonuses, and allowances intact so hefty borrowing was needed in 2020 that continues until today.

The Philippines’ gross debt/GDP ratio jumped from 37% in 2019 to 52% in 2020 and 57.5% in 2022. In contrast, several Asian economies did not resort to severe lockdowns, and they were able to grow in 2020 (Bangladesh, Taiwan, and Vietnam) and their debt/GDP ratio from 2019 to 2020 either declined or increased slightly. (See Table 1)

Currently high inflation is the number one concern of many Filipinos. Our January-September 2023 inflation rate is now 6.6%, twice that of Malaysia and Vietnam and about thrice that of Thailand and Taiwan.

I was wondering if somehow this is still related to the COVID pandemic, a sort of delayed “fiscal hangover” to the horrible lockdowns of 2020-2021? When I rechecked numbers, the answer seems to be “Yes.” Government has been over-borrowing from 2020-2022, the P0.88 trillion borrowed in 2019 became an average of P2.24 trillion/year in 2020-2022. (See Table 2)

High government borrowing means high interest rates as government competes with corporations and households in getting loans. High interest rates force companies and households to also raise the prices of their products, services, and labor, and this contributes to higher inflation.

I attended the wake of Doc Iggy last Sunday. There were so many people who came, so many flowers and wreaths. There were his family and relatives, classmates from Philippine Science High School (batch 1982), his UP College of Medicine classmates (batch 1991), his colleagues from Manila Doctors Hospital and UP Philippine General Hospital, his CDC PH family and friends. Congressmen Mike Defensor and Dante Marcoleta also came to reiterate their high respect and esteem of the man. The two legislators had invited him and other CDC PH doctors to speak in a number of Congress public hearings in 2021 about health protocols and possibly ending the lockdown.

Doc Iggy is considered a hero by so many people: those who despaired during the lockdown and were given medical hope and courage to stand up for their civil liberties; hundreds of his fellow inmates at Manila City Jail who experienced, for the first time, a big number of specialist doctors giving free medical consultation with free medicines, even food and some education materials. The inmates were very happy that Doc Iggy was with them because he pulled his network of doctors and volunteers. Now they wonder if they will experience the same privilege which they never had before. The family and friends of Doc Iggy say they will come back.

The main lessons for all – that the lockdown dictatorship was wrong and diabolical; that kindness of the heart, humility, and purity of intention to help others will help us have a peaceful and compassionate society. Doc Iggy has shown the way.

Maraming maraming salamat Doc, sa iyong katalinuhan, katapangan, at kabaitan. (Thank you very much Doc, for your intelligence, courage, and kindness.)


Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the president of Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. Research Consultancy Services, and Minimal Government Thinkers.