Further hardships, repression and corruption behind the Covid-19 lockdown

What it calls the “new normal,” in essence, is aggravating the worst aspects of the semicolonial and semifeudal system.

Translation/s: Pilipino | Bisaya

The Duterte regime is using the Covid-19 pandemic in the country to extend the fascist measures imposed in the name of fighting the disease. What it calls the “new normal,” in essence, is aggravating the worst aspects of the semicolonial and semifeudal system. Under this, more brutal fascism, worse neoliberal policies and exacerbated corruption will reign under the tyrant Duterte.

It has been more than 50 days since Duterte imposed the lockdown in Luzon and other parts of the country which has wrought unprecedented hunger and hardships on the people and damage to the economy. Up to now, his government has yet to undertake initiatives to carry out widespread scientific study about the real extent and virulence of the Covid-19. Its efforts at mass testing are lacking, slow and disparate, and funds for examining samples are grossly insufficient.

The Filipino people remain in the dark about the scientific and health basis of the continuing militarist lockdown called the general and enhanced community quarantine (GCQ and ECQ) and what these have achieved so far. While the people are kept blind and shrouded in fear of the Covid-19, Duterte and his fascist minions are carrying out more cruel and worse measures and policies.

Under continuing lockdown, Duterte’s police and soldiers trample with impunity on the people’s basic rights. Hundreds of thousands of people are forcibly locked up in their homes under the so-called “total lockdown” that has nothing to do with, and in fact, is contrary to public health.

Fear and distress reign as Duterte’s armed men roam the streets in poor communities as well as private subdivisions. People all over are being accosted, handcuffed, beaten, detained and tortured even on simple misdemeanors. A number of places are under curfew. Checkpoints abound. Protests and expression of grievances are prohibited. Mutual help and relief work are being controlled by the police and military in the name of keeping “social distance.”

In the countryside, repression against the peasant masses is worsening alongside AFP counterinsurgency operations. Checkpoints and searches, restrictions on farming, limits on the amount of purchases, house searches, intimidation to force people to cooperate with the military and other forms of suppression cause gross suffering and hardships on peasants.

The ultimate target of Duterte’s fascist policies are the democratic and patriotic forces, and critics who expose the sorely lacking and slow distribution of state subsidy during the lockdown, the grave lack of support for health workers, the neglect of public hospitals and the early disregard and lack of preparations for the spread of the Covid-19 and other big failures during the pandemic.

Duterte has already imposed military and police rule through the lockdown. This aims to paralyze the people’s democratic resistance and railroad anti-people neoliberal policies that the reactionary state has long wanted to impose.

Malacañang itself has said that the “new normal” will be no different from the GCQ where the state rigidly controls and monitors the movement of entire communities. They wish to maintain this setup until a vaccine is supposedly invented, which according to scientists may take 18 months (or until December 2021).

Using “social distancing” as an excuse, the regime plans to continue prohibiting gatherings. Claiming to act against the virus, it plans to continue preventing jeepney and tricycle drivers from plying their routes, as well as millions of contractual workers from going to work. The checkpoints will remain using “temperature checks” as justification. It will use sanitation measures to cause the closure of many small businesses. It will open schools and factories, but will continue to prohibit mass gatherings of students and workers. Duterte is pushing for the repressive National ID System in the name of “efficient distribution” of relief and “virus monitoring.”

In the name of decongesting the streets, the regime is set on prohibiting old jeeps and replace them with the new vehicles from China, that are controlled by big capitalists. To supposedly decongest cities, it will carry out widespread demolitions of urban poor communities under the “Balik Probinsya” program to pave the way for big bourgeois compradors and foreign capitalists to control prime real estate in Metro Manila.

Duterte also took advantage of the pandemic to recently levy an additional 10% tax on imported crude oil which will surely be shouldered by consumers. While the regime is fast-tracking plans to cut corporate taxes in the name of reviving the economy, it refuses to heed the calls to repeal or suspend the TRAIN Law which imposed oppressive taxes on basic commodities. Additional taxes are also set to be imposed in exchange for the country’s more or less $4 billion new loans with the World Bank, the ADB and other agencies.

Amid the public health crisis and economic downturn, bureaucrat capitalist plunder is worsening. Duterte, his cronies and the big bourgeois compradors are taking advantage of the crisis to make bigger profits. This include the cornering of contracts for building quarantine centers by the Villar family and Dennis Uy.

Duterte is using authoritarian rule to make all the big bourgeois compradors kneel before him. Recently, Duterte “asked for forgiveness” for his months of haranguing the Ayalas and Manny Pangilinan, which is mere public drama to hide the billions of pesos worth of “settlements.”

The other day, Duterte ordered the closure of ABS-CBN, a brazen attack against press freedom. He took advantage of the lockdown so that no one can protest the act. Duterte has long set his eyes on ABS-CBN because it is not easily compliant with Duterte wishes. Bureaucrat capitalists have long arm-twisted ABS-CBN to force it to cooperate in exchange for its franchise or to compel it to sell the company that is being drooled over by Duterte’s cronies and their foreign capitalist partners.

The “new normal” under the Duterte fascist regime means all out repression, oppression and corruption. While threatening to declare martial law, Duterte has already implemented the elements of absolute dictatorial rule and is killing off what remains of freedom and democracy. Freedom is now only for Duterte and his minions: freedom to rake in wealth and profits; freedom to use the people’s money for their self-serving aims; freedom to jail anyone who does not bow. Duterte holds democracy by the neck, ready any­time to squeeze the life out of it.

The entire country is already under Duterte’s undeclared martial law. Duterte is further suppressing, oppressing and taking away the people’s money. However, declared or otherwise, martial law is a big rock that Duterte is lifting but will only drop on his own head.

The entire people must reject the “new normal” that is mere continuation of the lockdown elements and other policies that only aggravate the country’s rotten state. They must ask what scientific basis do checkpoints, curfews and all other stringent measures have. In the name of democracy and freedom. they must bring together their courage and creatively defy and challenge the restrictions and Duterte’s militarist lockdown.

The people must build the broadest unity of all democratic classes and sectors against Duterte’s undeclared martial law. The biggest number of sectors must unite and fight against the shutdown of ABS-CBN and show its connection to Duterte’s neglect of health workers, to the slow and insufficient economic aid during the lockdown, to his refusal to suspend debt payments or costly counterinsurgency operations to favor the needs of public health, to the brutalities and abuses by police and military force, to Duterte’s corruption and his suppression of all basic rights including the right to express oneself and join street demonstrations.

There must be widespread propaganda and education work among the masses. Duterte’s lies and unscientific blabber about the Covid-19 must be exposed, while amplifying the clamor for health workers and scientists, not fascists, to lead the country’s response to the pandemic. Duterte must be held accountable for using the Covid-19 pandemic to push his scheme to establish a fascist dictatorship. The people must expose neoliberal policies for imposing greater hardship on the masses, while uniting to demand the repudiation of the TRAIN law and other oppressive taxes, for decent housing, right to work and other democratic demands.

The Party must continue to strengthen its branches and committees in the cities and countryside. The Party must continue to strengthen the underground movement to ensure that its organization continually gains strength even under the fascist clampdown and suppression. At the same time, the Party must strengthen its links with the masses in order to arouse, organize and mobilize them. The Party must effectively lead the masses in their fight for their democratic rights, and for their health and social well-being.

Duterte and his fascist clique will fail in their objective of suppressing the Filipino people’s resistance. While the Duterte clique escalates suppression, oppression and corruption during the Covid-19 pandemic, the people’s desire to stand and resist becomes ever more intense. The rotten ruling semicolonial and semifeudal system is being more thoroughly exposed, rousing the people to tread the path of national democratic revolution.