Duterte’s order to lockdown Luzon against the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) is anti-poor and anti-democratic. It has resulted in widespread chaos, and extreme hardship and inconvenience to workers and ordinary people. Duterte has further enraged the people for imposing the restrictive and repressive lockdown.
More than 40,000 police personnel and soldiers have been deployed to implement the lockdown in and around the National Capital Region. This aims to confine people in their homes and subject transportation and all aspects of social life to police and military control. Checkpoints were mounted to intimidate people and prevent them from going to their workplaces. The lockdown has practically shut down commerce and local production. Millions cannot work and earn a living and supplies are limited.
Duterte’s lockdown could result in widespread shortage and hunger. His makes empty promises to feed and dole out cash to to those affected. The fund supposedly to be given as aid to workers is extremely too low. Even local goverments admit that they do not have the capacity to feed those affected by the lockdown beyond several days.
Amid the Covid-19 epidemic, measures to strengthen public health infrastructures should have been made. Instead, Duterte imposed martial law under the guise of a lockdown in NCR and Luzon by the AFP and PNP. Duterte’s lockdown violate the people’s most basic civil rights including the right to travel and assembly. People are restricted from leaving their homes without passes or beyond curfew. Violators are threatened with arrest and imprisonment.
Military officials, not doctors or nurses, are in the frontline of Duterte’s solution. Instead of putting up much needed testing centers in barangays, checkpoints were mounted everywhere. Funds are squandered on military and police vehicles and other equipment, while public hospitals and health workers lack much needed facilities and equipment to admit, test and treat patients possibly infected by Covid-19.
The lockdown imposition exposes Duterte’s ill-preparedness to confront Covid-19 and other epidemics. Prior to the lockdown, Duterte underestimated the Covid-19 threat for two months. He did not implement measures to stop the spread of the virus in the country. In fact, he allowed the entry of thousands of Chinese tourists and POGO workers from January to February, even amid the quick spread of Covid-19 in China and restrictions imposed by many countries on Chinese tourists.
Duterte’s fascist lockdown conceals how he slashed the budget of the Department of health by ₱16.6 billion. He cut the budget for the Epidemiology and Surveillance Program, which focuses on the prevention and control of highly contagious diseases such as Covid-19, by half from ₱262.9 million in 2019 to ₱115.5 million. He instead increased the budget of the military and police, and for its corruption-ridden “intelligence” fund.
Because of lack of preparation and genuine care for the welfare and livelihood of the toiling masses, Duterte imposed the lockdown through coercion, using military and police forces. Duterte ignores the plight of millions of people who need to travel in order to work or find employment, go to their destination, and others. This relefcts Duterte’s militaristic narrow-mindedness. He think that he can silence all people through his armed military and police forces.
The toiling masses are outrage at Duterte’s lockdown. Although portrayed as a measure to counter Covid-19, the Filipino people clearly sees that what this brings to them is a heavy burden. To absence of measures to improve health facilities proves that Duterte is not facing the Covid-19 threat seriously.
The Filipino people must demand an end to Duterte’s anti-poor and anti-democratic lockdown in NCR, Luzon at and other parts of the country. Just as how other countries have responded, the Covid-19 threat can be dealt with without having to curtail the people’s basic rights to mobility, work and assembly. Doctors, nurses and health workers must be at the forefront of this endeavor and not soldiers and police forces.
It is only just for the Filipino people to assert the immediate realignment of funds squandered on the procurement of helicopters, fighter jets, bombs and other war matériel, and the budget allocated for so-called “intelligence” and debt servicing, to health. Public hospitals and other facilities must be immediately equipped to cope with Covid-19 cases, as well as public health facilities at the barangay level to be able to conduct mass testing. They must push for the free distribution of face masks, alcohol and other hygiene kits, as well as adequate access to electricity and clean water, especially in poor communities. They must demand for sanitation services, garbage collection and disinfection of public places. They must assert that the budget of universities and other agencies conducting scientific research to discover ways to test and produce medicines for Covid-19 be increased, and the local production of such medicines be supported. Workers must demand for emergency aid and free distribution of food. They must assert their right to assembly, even if some appropriate precautions need to be implemented to prevent the spread of the disease, to express the people’s collective plight.
Simultaneously, the people must collectively take action to conduct necessary measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19. They must establish local health committees and collectively launch sanitation, cleaning and personal hygiene measures, and provide aid to health workers, among others. They must continuously strive to defend the democratic rights and welfare of the people during the lockdown.
In revolutionary territories, mass organizations and health committees of organs of political power must be mobilized to conduct information campaigns on Covid-19, and implement measures to prevent the spread of the virus in their communities. They must give special attention to the elderly who are most vulnerable to Covid-19. Promote the use of herbal medicines which can be used to fight the symptoms of Covid-19.
NPA units must work closely with local health committees in barrios. They must mobilize Red fighters to help in raising the awareness of the people about the disease and on what has to be collectively done by the people to face this. The NPA must continue to defend the people, especially amid the threat of using Covid-19 to impose fascist military rule, intimidate the people and suppress their rights.
The collective action of the people is key to addressing the current health crisis and not Duterte’s fascist lockdown.