Inadequate and inefficient anti-Covid19 measures include silencing people
The National Democratic Front – Ilocos (NDF-Ilocos) condemns, in the strongest terms possible, the Duterte administration’s crookedness in times of massive death and general uncertainty. Far from his previous posturing of indifference and arrogant complacency, he now utilizes the present tragedy to further consolidate and extend his rotten rule while the poor majority of the country battles the threat of coronavirus (Covid19) and the imminent risk of poverty, unemployment and hunger. As the Filipino people wait on him for political will in the difficult fight against the pandemic, Duterte fails miserably. Moreover, Duterte-sanctioned legal maneuvers and continuing fascism both in cities and in the countryside betray the true agenda of the regime during these trying times.
Business as Usual
It is business as usual in the grimmest of context. Using the pandemic, Duterte hit his first score of Php275 billion fund from the railroaded Bayanihan Act. It is a worthy addition to his pre-pandemic Office of the President funds, which already amounts to Php8.28 billion. As is the custom, the spending of such funds—collected through people’s taxes and the like—make the process of reporting and auditing more then difficult. Duterte and his bottom-feeders are free to do as they like. Case in point is this week’s government propaganda that it has already spent Php352.7 billion when it has nothing to show for it but a series of haphazard anti-poor and militarist band-aid solutions.
While the people awaits changes in the strategy to defeat Covid19, plots and maneuvers in the bureaucracy are aplenty. Since January, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has been busy with efforts to revive the Charter Change. Through successive memorandum orders, the DILG browbeat local government units (LGUs) to produce a signature campaign in support of Duterte’s version of Constitutional Reform. The latter are expected to submit their respective resolutions and signature drives on May. Although Congress and Senate currently remain closed due to the virus, it is not hard to imagine a special session just to enact Duterte’s much-needed revisions in the 1986 Constitution. Billion-peso funding are not the only perks railroaded through special sessions. It is just as possible to use such maneuver to stun the Filipino people with an extended Presidential term plus higher office for Duterte’s apprentice Bong Go. Together, through revised charter, the couple can enforce intensified draconian measures against the people without fear of accountability.
Duterte’s recent pronouncements to enforce Martial Law on the basis of supposed ‘lawlessness’ and looting by members of the New People’s Army (NPA) is also old news. Taking the fact that it is lacking in details, Duterte only further embarasses himself on top of the already embarassing mismanagement of the pandemic. He only serves to expose his own desperation to save face while grabbing more power for himself. The Communist Party of the Philippines, on the other hand, has aleady declared a unilateral ceasefire until the end of April. All units of the NPA are in active defense mode and any firefight can only result from Philippine Army (PA) units entering guerilla bases due to combat operations.
In the guerilla fronts of the region, for example, PA troops continue to launch search and destroy operations despite proclamations of unilateral ceasefire from the Government of the Philippines. Combined with civil-military encampment and intelligence gathering, these operations cause further anxiety and trauma among civilian populations. Alternately, through the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, it relentlessly harasses and endangers mass leaders of legitimate organizations.
Reign of (T)error
The NDF-Ilocos joins the nation in its justifiable clamor for urgent mass testing, adequate relief assistance to families of poor income up to middle class range, immediate reinforcement of the public health system and empowerment of LGUs to better handle the pandemic and its consequent effects on the grassroots-level.
Duterte, however, remains deaf to these calls and instead chooses to pin the blame on the people instead of providing assistance. The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the PA is quick to join the circus that is the regime’s mismanagement of this pandemic. Duterte’s declaration to shoot ‘violators’ dead and to allow the military to take over the enforcement of the measures against the pandemic only served to embolden the PA and PNP’s trigger-happy gunpowder-rotten brained elements.
Equally resistant to people’s criticisms and blinded by its loyalty to Duterte, the Department of Health (DOH) re-echoes his blunders. From prematurely and baselessly declaring that the Philippines has the pandemic under control to absurdly declaring that mass testing is unnecessary, the DOH itself seems to add to the burden of front liners already preoccupied with saving lives. As the month of April ends, with almost 500 deaths under its belt, the DOH at last decided to hold a meeting to plan against Covid19. This, after weeks of receiving purely endless abuse, unintelligible mutterings and threats of death and violence from Duterte. Meanwhile, hospitals and their staff find better chance of procuring protective gear and medical equipment from private donors. Much-awaited hospital supplies from the government finally arrived but with Bong Go’s name and face plastered on them.
The Filipino people will bear in their collective memory the months of Duterte’s complacency and its ill consequences. The deaths from this pandemic will be tallied together with the 12,000 deaths from Oplan Tokhang and 1,000 fatalities (excluding civilian deaths) from the bloody raid and occupation of Mindanao through years of Martial Law. Duterte’s reign of terror and error has made itself the bloodiest regime in recent history. LGUs that are intent on sincerely helping their constituents should stand in principle against the national government’s inadequacies and politicking.
They should not allow themselves to be used by national government leaders in the promotion of the former’s selfish advantages.
The people, on the other hand, has to assert for more effective anti-Covid19 measures. The rotten system has rendered the nation unprepared and vulnerable against the pandemic and that same system is dragging the process of defeating it—at the cost of the lives of the Filipino people. A regime as crooked as this should be scrutinized every step of the way. The use of violence should not be regarded as standard practice and should instead be condemned.
Duterte has used this pandemic as another tool to attack the human and civil rights of the people but the people will strike back for accountability and justice. It is up to the people to maximize all arenas possible, from legal struggle to revolutionary action, in order to overcome Covid19 and in the process overthrow all of Duterte’s efforts to broaden his regime of violence and corruption. ###