Duterte’s full abandonment of medical solution, driven by neoliberalism
Duterte is criminally liable for the worsening neoliberal direction of the Covid-19 response. In the face of Covid-19’s most contagious variant yet, the regime completely abandoned the necessary basic medical response and has turned it into the sole responsibility of individuals.
The Department of Health declared the strategy shift from quick virus containment and eradication to simple case monitoring. The clamor for mass testing and expansive contact tracing remain ignored, and worse, were even removed from the list of priorities after DOH branded them impractical and waste of funds. Quarantine periods were also shortened. After imposing the ala-Martial Law witch-hunt of unvaccinated individuals and pushing for mandatory vaccination, the regime brazenly admitted that herd immunity is no longer a priority.
The country ended up in this downtrodden situation due to US-Duterte regime’s insistent implementation of the neoliberal agenda in combatting the pandemic. Instead of decisively ensuring the state’s obligation to strengthen the public health system, the regime exploited the pandemic to railroad anti-people neoliberal policies under the thin excuse of economic recovery. This further weakened the country’s capabilities in resolving the pandemic while driving the masses deeper into suffering and destitution.
These neoliberal policies include the lack of attention towards the health system and workers in this sector while infrastructure funding, military spending and debt servicing consistently increase, and wholesale commercialization and privatization of hospitals remain unabated. Incentives and recovery measures to save big corporations were also enforced while the masses were left on their own, facing skyrocketing commodity prices, utility fees, debts and job losses. For instance, benefits that health workers have been waiting for almost three years are set to be distributed albeit by basis of priority due to lack of funds. Meanwhile, large corporations’ taxes were reduced, funds that could have been utilized to address necessary health issues in the country.
In Bikol, there is no available funding for additional contact tracers, incentives for health workers and sufficient livelihood assistance in consideration of the effects of lockdown. Hospital capacities also remain wanting even with relatively intermittent rises in Covid-19 cases. Meanwhile, billions of big-ticket projects in the region are implemented as rapidly as the spread of the virus. Recently, the contract for the P148 billion PNR South Long Haul project has been signed at once while the meager wage increase for health workers of Sorsogon Provincial Hospital took three postponements before finally being enforced. A number of major projects were also either fast-tracked or completed during the pandemic. With this staggering amount of funds and quick pacing, many hospitals and health facilities could have been erected, thousands of workers could have been given additional wages and benefits and thousands of families could have been given adequate ayuda and food security!
In this light, it becomes even more judicious to hold US-Duterte regime accountable for the relentless violations of people’s rights to health access, denounce the senseless fascist lockdown and make the regime pay for the tens of thousands who were killed by the inept, militarist and anti-poor pandemic response.