Duterte’s Dictatorship Aggravates Public Health Crisis – Malaya Movement’s Statement on Duterte regime’s response of COVID 19

OFFICIAL STATEMENT

Reference: Yves Nibungco, National Coordinator, malayamovement@gmail.com

Malaya Movement joins the Filipino people and the global community in battling the deadly virus COVID-19, also known as the Novel Coronavirus. We call on our members, allies and supporters to extend their utmost solidarity and assistance to all peoples affected by this public health crisis, and to keep a keen eye on the Philippines, most especially poor and working class Filipinos. 

With the rise of positive cases of COVID-19, it is both heartbreaking and enraging to watch the hellish conditions imposed upon the Filipino people, especially the urban poor, workers, and the frontliners. The Filipino people are facing a double tragedy: the ravages of the coronavirus coupled with the tyranny and incompetence of the Duterte regime. 

Duterte’s disastrous handling of the Coronavirus pandemic

Time and again, Duterte puts his puppetry to foreign powers above the welfare and interest of the Filipino people. Duterte deliberately chose to appease the interests of foreign powers, particularly China, and ignored clamors for an immediate travel ban increasing the risk and spread of COVID-19 to the general population. 

Capitalizing on the genuine fear and panic from the population, Duterte resorted to a militaristic approach in handling the pandemic. With the lockdown of Metro Manila and the whole of Luzon, he has imposed policies that only exacerbate the public health crisis without any coherent and comprehensive plan. For example, military checkpoints created enormous crowds of people travelling by foot or motorcycle, and the shutdown of public transportation stranded essential workers, including healthcare frontliners who were unable to get to hospitals. Cases of abuse at checkpoints by police and soldiers are emerging. In recent reports, checkpoint police had threatened to shoot those found not to comply with local lockdown orders, locking some in dog cages and left out in the harsh sun. These punitive and cruel examples have characterized the Duterte administration’s response to public health challenges as seen in the past years of his administration’s notorious Drug War.

Uncontented with just the lockdown, Duterte and his rubber stamp senate and congress took advantage of the COVID crisis to give him “special powers” through Republic Act 11469 or the “Bayanihan We Heal as One Act.” It gives Duterte powers to direct operations of private hospitals and public transportation, regulate the distribution of power, fuel, energy, and water, and realign funding. These powers also include penalizing individuals and groups who will be spreading “fake news,” as well as a broad mandate to undertake “other measures as may be necessary” to respond to the pandemic. Such policies are prone to abuse, deepen unequal distribution of resources tipped toward the wealthy and powerful, and are designed to silence the growing protests and vocalized criticisms and discontent among the people as a result of Duterte’s sheer incompetence. The Malaya Movement condemns this shameless maneuver towards a full blown dictatorship and failure to address the true needs of the people. 

We denounce Duterte’s continuing reign of terror. As the people are struggling against COVID-19, the Duterte government and its armed minions continue to commit human rights violations with the arrest of human rights activist Teresita Naul, 60, Lanao del Norte last March 15 and the assassination of peasant activist Marlon Maldos, 25, from Bohol last March 17. These violent attacks on youth and the elderly human rights defenders reveal the sustained bloodlust of the Duterte regime even amidst a global pandemic plaguing the nation.

People’s Demands to Duterte 

It is clear that the Filipino people have nothing more to expect from the Duterte regime other than more suffering amidst this pandemic. Like in previous crises, the Filipino people have to rely on our own collective effort to save ourselves. In light of that, The Malaya Movement encourages our members, allies and supporters to support our front line workers and other community efforts. The Malaya Movement supports the 7 point demand of the Citizens Urgent Response to end COVID-19 (Cure COVID) as well as other cause oriented groups:

  1. Enact medical solutions instead of military actions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
  2. Assign more doctors, nurses, health workers and volunteers to communities instead of deploying police and military.
  3. Immediately allocate a significant portion of the government’s budget to the COVID-19 crisis for prevention, monitoring, testing and treatment, and to hire additional frontline health workers, instead of allocating more funds for tourism or support for large businesses.
  4. Perform community-level steps including: free and mass COVID-19 testing and urgent treatment of those who contract the virus,information drives related to COVID-19; distribution of free face masks, alcohol, sanitizers and vitamins C and B12; mass disinfection of schools, markets, neighborhoods and common people; 
  5. Ensure safe and healthy workplaces. Ensure job security and benefits for those who cannot go to work. Ensure accessible transportation services from home to work and back.
  6. For Maynilad and Manila Water to resolve their failed and unreliable water services. 24/7 water supply in the homes must be ensured for hand washing. 
  7. Support local scientists and health workers. Fund and fast track the production of test kits created by the University of the Philippines. 

Lastly, if the past three years is not yet enough, the past three months alone further validates our position that the Filipino people’s suffering will only increase so long as Duterte remains in power. With the longstanding, real needs of the Filipino people for better economic opportunities, and land for the vast masses of peasant farmers to till, and this most recent public health crisis of Covid-19, Duterte’s leadership has proven not fit for purpose. Instead of continuing to power grab and employ a dictatorial and totalitarian style of leadership, he might better serve the Philippines by stepping down and resigning. 

Tens of thousands of people have already been murdered by the Duterte regime, and his militaristic and anti-people response to COVID-19 will no doubt add more deaths to his legacy. The Malaya Movement calls on Duterte to resign so that more lives can be spared. His deadly reign cannot continue. Join the Malaya Movement in calling for Duterte’s resignation. Heed the people’s demands for medical response to the COVID-19 crisis, and arm the health professionals with medical equipment, not the military! 

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