Cases of Covid-19 infections in the Philippines continue to shoot up because of the inept and police-centered response of the Duterte government to the public health crisis. Duterte’s health officials reported yesterday that the number of infections in the country is set to exceed 85,500, more than twice the number since the start of the month. Deaths from the disease are now close to 2,000 people.
The Covid-19 pandemic in the country has now gotten out of hand. Infections have spread to provinces where health facilities are lacking or absent. It spreads rapidly especially in the highly congested urban poor communities. Hospitals are reporting full capacity and health workers are being overstretched. Testing capacity remains sorely insufficient, with more than 30,000 cases lined up for verification, in addition to tens of thousands of tests that need to be conducted on a daily basis. Health information is not real time putting the country several steps behind the rapidly spreading virus. As a result, quarantines and lockdowns are imposed too late.
In addition to the health crisis, the Filipino people are suffering from widespread loss of jobs and sources of income. This is a result of Duterte’s obsession with his favored infrastructure projects and foreign borrowing, refusal to undertake urgent steps to revive production and commerce, as well as by the slow, corruption-ridden and inadequate distribution of social aid.
Tens of thousands of unemployed people in Metro Manila are now desperately rushing to the bee line to return to their home provinces where they will face more uncertainties. Government inefficiencies and idiotic travel restriction policies have caused them grave hardships, and exposed them to crowds where probability of Covid-19 infections are high.
Malacañang plans to conduct a “living experiment” in Metro Manila, in a vain attempt to stem the rapid spread of the virus. Considering how the pandemic is already way ahead, the measures it is planning are tokenistic and are way too late, despite the overblown self-praises by Duterte’s mouthpieces. The regime is merely putting on a show to make people believe that something is being done while it conceal its nefarious activities.
While the vast majority of the Filipino people suffer from the public health and economic crisis, Duterte and his minions engage in outright corruption by realigning funds to overpriced purchases and granting contracts to favored companies. They continue to wallow in wealth and luxury. Instead of decisively addressing the pandemic, Duterte continues to prioritize the interests of his cohorts and their drive to dominate big business to accumulate wealth, property and profits. While planning to reduce taxes of big corporations, Duterte and his technocrats are pushing for more taxes that will further fleece the people.
The regime remains engrossed in measures to strengthen its tyrannical rule, from the terror law to the current push to reimpose the death penalty. Violations of civil and political rights are on the rise with restrictions against mass actions, arrests, abductions, seizure of critical newspapers and other forms of state suppression.
After five months of failed response to the pandemic, the demand for Duterte’s resignation or ouster has become ever urgent, as only an immediate radical shift in state priorities can give the country a fighting chance to manage and overcome the health and economic crisis. Policy measures cannot be hinged on the uncertainty of a vaccine which may take a few years to develop.
Duterte’s resignation or ouster can pave the way for a constitutional succession towards a government that is more democratic and responsive to the urgent needs of the people and the economy amid the pandemic. The removal of Duterte can give the country a better chance at fighting the pandemic.