The End of Liberal Democracy in the Philippines


By Ethan Chua on August 29, 2020

On July 3 2020, despite waves of popular resistance and incisive legal critique, President Rodrigo Duterte passed an Anti-Terrorism law that would give the executive government sweeping powers to imprison and repress political activists under the guise of combating terrorism. These powers include the ability of the executive branch to authorize what amount to warrantless arrests, the arbitrary detention of those suspected of aiding or inciting terrorism for up to 24 days, and the complete supersession of judicial checks on presidential authority. Understandably, many Filipinos are concerned that the law’s passage will usher in a new era of repression, akin to martial law under the Marcos dictatorship. Yet unlike the Marcos dictatorship, Duterte’s right wing populism stems from decades of liberal democracy that failed to address the economic needs of the Filipino people. 

The proponents of Philippine liberal democracy, from President Corazon “Cory” Aquino to her son Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, essentially promised the Filipino people that poverty and economic inequality could be quelled through anti-corruption measures and liberal political reform. However, liberal reforms only ended up entrenching the institutional power of political dynasties without meaningfully improving the lives of the most oppressed, providing the stage for Duterte’s rise to power on a populist, anti-elite platform. The Anti-Terrorism Bill, now codified into law, is the resurgence of right wing populism, sprouting from the carcass of the EDSA Revolution’s co-optation by the liberal elite.

In 1986, the People Power Revolution (also known as the EDSA revolution) led to the ousting of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the presidency of Corazon “Cory” Aquino. As the wife of assassinated senator and Marcos-opponent Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Cory’s rise was hailed worldwide as the triumph of democracy against Marcos’ dictatorial regime. She symbolized a newfound Filipino commitment to the ideals of liberal democracy, which were enshrined as principles in the 1987 Constitution. Yet despite Cory’s widespread support, she was never able to unify the various political forces who challenged or who stood against the Marcos regime. Instead, her presidency is best understood as a tug-of-war between a wide range of coalitions who sought to influence the new spokesperson of the Filipino people. 

Roughly, these coalitions can be divided up into the radical (primarily national democratic) left, who wanted to extend the promise of liberal democracy into genuine agrarian reform and economic justice; the more centrist upper-middle classes, which consisted of Church officials, and business leaders who despite welcoming an end to Marcos-era repression, only paid lip service to the ideals of free elections and speech; and right-wing military groups such as the Reform the Armed Forces Movement, whose aspirations for a strong repressive state in the mold of Marcos led them to launch a series of failed coups against the Aquinos. In the end, Cory’s own strong ties to landholding interests (her family’s landholdings included the over 6,000 hectare sugar plantation Hacienda Luisita), coupled with internal strife within the Philippine left, led her government on a path of socially conservative, economically neoliberal policy making coupled with a public commitment to liberal democratic norms.

The national democratic left, who broke decisively with Cory after she oversaw the killing of 21 peasants protesting for land reform on Mendiola Bridge in January 1987, remained the most vocal critics of her new liberal order. They rightfully saw that Cory’s commitment to democratic principles and constitutional freedoms meant nothing if those principles were not coupled with economic justice and genuine agrarian reform. Yet the left’s own political legitimacy had been weakened after they failed to participate in the broad coalition that helmed the People Power Revolution. As such, their critique of Cory went unheeded by the government. Despite reforming the Constitution to place greater checks on presidential power, she simultaneously continued the neoliberal economic agenda of Marcos’ regime. 

Cory’s now infamous refusal to repudiate the national debt upon her rise to power, alongside her continued pursuit of foreign investment and loans from the IMF and the World Bank, caused the Philippines to be further incorporated into the neoliberal world system. The primary consequence of this rising debt was a state-sponsored surge in overseas Filipino workers, who today can be seen throughout the globe doing precarious labor as seafarers, nurses, and domestic workers. This turn to overseas employment for Filipinos was first encouraged by the Marcos government, which sought to service the national debt with the remittances workers sent home. Despite rejecting Marcos’ dictatorial regime, Cory essentially continued his policies of labor export. Under Cory, the Philippine state brokered contracts with foreign states to have Filipino workers fill labor demand; meanwhile, at home, her government began recasting overseas Filipino workers as national heroes, pushing more and more Filipinos to consider work abroad as a preferable alternative to a lack of domestic opportunities. Today, around one million Filipinos leave the country each year to work abroad.

Cory’s popular global and national appeal arose from her reputation as an icon of emergent democracy. Describing her presidential campaign against Marcos before the United States Congress in 1986, she presented herself as a self-conscious champion of a people who longed for the restoration of democratic norms: “Wherever I went in the campaign, slum area or impoverished village, they came to me with one cry, democracy. Not food, although they clearly needed it but democracy. Not work, although they surely wanted it but democracy.” However, despite her lip service to democratic practice, Cory continued the brutal military repression of activists who challenged the fragile consensus between center and right that she had brokered, with extrajudicial killings rising under her regime.

Filipinos who were born in the early to late ‘90s live in a post-Cory era where the subsequent presidents combined economic liberalization, a rhetorical commitment to anti-corruption measures and political reform, and the military repression of dissent under the broad banner of “liberal democracy.” Under Cory’s successor Fidel Ramos, the police and military apparatus were given more powers, forcing communist and Muslim separatist revolutionary movements in the southern Philippines to cede ground. Meanwhile, Ramos’ socio-economic Philippines 2000 program, which was designed to hasten industry development, only further increased the hold of foreign capital on the Filipino people. Under Ramos, state and paramilitary forces conducted military operations against local communities to clear the way for foreign mining and other projects of resource extraction. 

By the time the Philippines’ subsequent presidents came into power, the cracks of decades of neoliberal policies began to show. Corruption grew rampant. Foreign capital remained among a clique of landlords, business tycoons, local politician-warlords, who allied with whichever regime was in power. Elections and protests remained regular, but felt more like empty gestures towards an unrealized aspiration for democracy than genuine power to the people. These democratic practices continued to be marred by political violence; in a particularly egregious case in 2009, 57 people were murdered by the militia of Maguindanao mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr. for their support of an opposition candidate. During this time, the government also disappeared many activists who went too far in their demands for economic justice. Among the middle and upper classes, political disaffection replaced the democratic enthusiasm of the EDSA revolution.

President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s presidency was, in retrospect, the dying breath of a liberal democratic consensus that for the preceding decades had tried to keep the masses pliant. Noynoy became a popular candidate after the death of his mother Cory Aquino because he promised to continue her legacy of democratic reform and ran on a presidential slogan that promised to end poverty by ending corruption. However, Noynoy only oversaw increasing economic inequality. While bankers, real estate developers, and business owners benefited from lower interest rates and a rising GDP, the share of agricultural and manufacturing sectors in the economy stagnated or shrunk. Meanwhile, his ostensible commitment to combating dynastic corruption was belied by his own membership in one of the most prominent political families in the Philippines. Increasingly, it became clear to the Filipino people that Aquino’s version of liberal democracy and economic growth ultimately benefited the elite–from enterprising business owners to entrenched political dynasties.

This environment of political disillusionment set the stage of Rodrigo Duterte’s rise to power as a presidential candidate who rhetorically positioned himself as an outsider—a foul-mouthed, truth-telling strongman from southern Mindanao who would not put up with the pretensions of an imperial elite that ranged from Manila to Washington. His strong stance against criminals and drug dealers provided a popular scapegoat for the socioeconomic ills of the country, deftly situating the blame for poverty not on a lack of economic justice or agrarian reform, but rather on the poor choices of social malcontents. His campaign painted an image of a nation on the brink of disaster, assailed by drug lords and armed communist insurgents, which required a leader who could substitute democratic practice with the violent exercise of political will. Ultimately, Duterte’s election can be understood as the people’s verdict on the failure of the Aquinos to deliver on the promises of their cacique-led liberal democracy.

More than 30 years after the EDSA revolution, we stand in a new era of executive power and political repression. If we fail to recognize that Duterte’s popularity is a result of the past few decades’ inability to create economic justice for ordinary people, we risk making the same mistakes as our predecessors. Liberal democracy, as practiced by the landed elite and dynastic families of our nation, has never worked. Neither will Duterte’s military authoritarian regime, despite its promises of social change through the eradication of drug users and leftist dissenters. As we condemn  Duterte’s dictatorial rule, let us also call for a democracy that challenges the limits of economic liberalism, one that is committed to overturning the economic status quo in favor of the masses. 

In the face of terror, let us continue to dream. Makibaka, huwag matakot.

Dissent nears boiling point in Duterte’s SONA 2020


Original Article:
Article written by Lian Buan and Rambo Talabong

UP Diliman swelled with people even before the scheduled 10 am start of the unified State of the Nation Address (SONA) rally on Monday, July 27.

Tama na, sobra na! (Enough is enough),” printed in huge red letters on a massive white tarpaulin, greeted everyone entering University Avenue just before the program started.

It read like the everyday rally sign of the Left, except that it belonged to the Kilusang Bente Dos, which claimed to be centrist.

“We are neither Left nor Yellow, yun na nga ang gusto naming sabihin eh. Ito ‘yung sentimyento ng mas nakararaming mamamayan ng ating lipunan, ang pagpapaalis kay Duterte hindi kailangang meron kang kulay,” said Rizalito David, infamous for his failed candidacies in 2013 and 2016, now a convenor of a group named after the February 22, 1986 People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship.

(We are neither Left nor Yellow, that’s what we want to say, that this is the sentiment of the majority, the call for Duterte to resign does not need a political color.)


The group, formed just months earlier, held up mini posters of what for them were boiling point incidents in the presidency – the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) scandal that jailed already-freed inmates, and the P1.4-trillion infrastructure spending bill that the group thinks stinks of corruption.


“Siya ‘yung puno’t dulo ng kahirapan na nadarama natin ngayon (Duterte is the source of all our hardships),” David said.

At the opposite end, in front of the Oblation, young people from the progressive group Anakbayan held up a poster of Duterte and stamped him a terrorist. It was an odd sight because beside them were Churchmen in cassocks led by La Sallian Brother Armin Luistro, who was allied with the other faction – the liberals.

Luistro stood there unassumingly, as if he did not take on a leadership role in bringing together a frustratingly elusive united opposition that gathered around 1,800 people, according to police estimates. Protesters, however, estimated they numbered at least 8,000.

The unified resistance

The coronavirus pandemic may have limited rally logistics – it’s the first grand protest ever to be held ahead of the President’s speech – but it’s also what turned on the heat on already simmering discontent.

“Sa tindi ng problemang hinaharap ng ating bansa, mahalaga ang pagkakaisa, mahalagang isantabi natin ang ating kanya-kanyang pagkakaiba,” said Liberal Party Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan  in his taped video message to the protest on Monday. (The problems the country is facing today are so bad that it’s important to unite and set aside our differences.)


For Pangilinan, the last time this happened was 20 years ago during the EDSA Dos Revolution in 2000 that overthrew the presidency of Joseph Estrada.

Pangilinan’s view of unity is reminiscent of his impassioned appeal during the 2019 midterm elections, when tensions rose between the liberals and Left, and bickering punctuated a landslide loss for all of them.

But it appears, at least for now, that this is behind them.

Prominent Left figure, Renato Reyes of Bayan, even credited Pangilinan for planning the unified protest called the #SONAgkaisa.

“It was initiated by, the inviting personalities were Senator Kiko Pangilinan, Sister Mary John Mananzan, and Brother Armin Luistro was the one who facilitated, Bishop (Broderick) Pabillo was also there, that was before he got sick, and we decided to hold a common activity for SONA,” Reyes told Rappler on the sidelines of the rally Monday morning.

That they are showing a united front is historic achievement in itself, and signals what appears to be a less fractured opposition to lead the growing resistance movement. 

Resign or oust?

In the famed Hong Kong democracy protests, a focal point of the resistance is a categorical call for leader Carrie Lam to resign. 

The Left turned that up a notch higher: a call to oust Duterte.


The last speaker of the program was Bahaghari’s Rey Salinas, among the arrested Pride 20, who unfurled a rainbow-colored “Oust Duterte” sign on stage, left fist in the air, shouting: “Duterte, patalsikin!” (Oust Duterte)

An ouster call, however, is a very touchy point in this fragile alliance.

Former Bayan Muna representative and longtime activist Teddy Casiño said that the Left and the liberals almost had a lasting coalition in July 2018 during Duterte’s 4th SONA – until a few months later that year when the supposed Red October plot to oust Duterte reopened the crevices. 

Vice President Leni Robredo, the LP, and its allied groups, had to go on record to say they do not want to oust Duterte.

Chel Diokno, who ran as senator in 2019 under LP, and among the lead organizers, said he “understands why people are making that call.”

“Every person has the right to express themselves, sa tingin ko lang marami nang hindi satisfied sa mga nangyayari, at hindi na rin satisfied sa pag-manage ng COVID, so I really understand why people are making that call,” he told Rappler.

(Every person has the right to express themselves, and for me there are many people not satisfied with what’s happening, and not satisfied with how COVID is being managed, so I really understand why people are making that call.)


For, Neri Colmenares, the Left’s candidate in the 2019 senatorial elections, whether the call is to resign, to oust, or otherwise, a common message clearly emerged.

“The consensus here is President Duterte is the worst leader we could ever have in times of crisis. He has no competence to lead a nation in times of crisis, especially in a pandemic like COVID,” said Colmenares.

'They agitated, outraged the people'

Political analyst Ela Atienza, chair of the UP Department of Political Science, said that foremost, the expansion of the opposition coalition was born out of the frustration of people over the government’s coronavirus response. 

It tapped a critical strand of the population: the middle class.

“Because of the pandemic, a lot of middle class was affected by the pandemic and the government’s response. Some of them had difficulty with their businesses and jobs, and many are turning to social media for their frustrations,” Atienza said.

For Colmenares, the passage of the feared anti-terror law paved the political crossroad for Duterte. The pull to unite the broad-based coalition strengthened, Casiño added, during deliberations for the passage of the controversial legislation.

“They realized that it will hit ordinary people. They realized that even though the law was meant to target Leftists, it still needed to be opposed. Because if the law can hit the Left, it can hit everyone,” Casiño said.


In the Supreme Court, the unified voice is further amplified by the 19 petitions so far coming from all sides, including a former soldier, Magdalo’s Ashley Acedillo, who joined the Antonio Carpio-UP Law case.

Then the ABS-CBN shutdown happened.

Government pulled the plug on the biggest television network, and with it, the regular entertainment and news source for millions of Filipinos.

Journalists and media workers, raised in a culture that upholds neutrality to a fault, were suddenly thrust to the frontline of resistance.

Veteran journalist Ces Drilon took to the stage Monday, and spoke at a rally for the first time ever in her more than 3-decade decorated career.

“Narito po ako ngayon dahil lubha na pong nakababahala ang kalagayan ng ating lipunan (I am here because the state of our society is already very disturbing),” Drilon began her speech, before pausing to say how much it makes her nervous.

Drilon, among the first to be let go by ABS-CBN in its mass retrenchment, said it was crucial that she spoke.

“What really compelled me was – all these arguments I see on social media from trolls, and maybe legitimate followers, that ABS-CBN closure is not equal to press freedom, and I really want to say my piece why it’s connected,” Drilon told Rappler after.

Malacañang: Duterte’s feelings hurt by frontliners’ plea to media


Original Article:
Article written by Sofia Tomacruz

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on Monday, August 3, that President Rodrigo Duterte’s outrage against medical frontliners stemmed from their public call through media to review the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press briefing held a day after Duterte taunted health workers to stage a revolution, Roque said the President would have preferred if they sent a letter to him first. 

According to Roque, “Ang hindi lang po nakakaalam ng liham ay si Presidente mismo.” (The President was the last to know about the medical community’s letter.)

’Linaw naman ang sabi ng Presidente, hindi naman kinakailangan na makaron ng splash, kumbaga. Sana binigyan siya ng pagkataon na sagutin ’yung liham bago sila nagkaroon ng publicity dahil ang naoobserbahan natin, talagang nauna pa ang webinar bago pa do’n sa pagtanggap ng liham ng Presidente,” Roque told reporters. 

(What the President said was clear, they didn’t need to create a splash. They should have given him a chance to address their concerns before they created publicity, because from what we’ve observed, their webinar was called before the President received their letter.) 

On Saturday, August 1, some 80 medical societies called on the government for a two-week timeout as they warned that the country’s health system was overwhelmed by a recent surge in cases, and that the country was losing its battle against the pandemic.


In sounding a distress signal, the medical community urged the government to collaborate with experts among them to refine current pandemic strategies. 

But Duterte took it the wrong way and claimed that “rampaging” doctors were crying out for a “revolution.” 

““Huwag kayo magsigaw-sigaw, ‘revolution.’ Magsabi kayo revolution, then ngayon na. Try it. Patayin natin lahat ng may COVID-19. Is that what you want? We can always end our existence in this manner,” ranted Duterte. 

“We are not incompetent because we are not doctors. You should do the soul-searching, not us. Kayo, makatulong sana. Wala kayong ginagawa kung ’di magreklamo (You could be helping but all you do is complain),” he added. 

Medical societies pointed out how the President misunderstood their call, saying they only urged the government to review its response and to collaborate with experts among them to improve the country’s pandemic response.

“The call was for the DOH (Department of Health) and IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) to provide HCWs (healthcare workers) a fighting chance in the war against COVID and prevent unnecessary fatalities – NOTHING more,” said Dr Mario Panaligan, president of the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) earlier on Monday.

In a “letter of clarification” to Duterte, Panaligan also pointed out that the PCP wrote the DOH regarding health workers’ concerns in April, but that neither the DOH nor the IATF replied to their requests.


“We bear no ill will and have acted without malice towards the implementers of the law and the bayanihan as one goal, but our empty cries had to be made known somehow,” Panaligan added. (READ: Staging revolt? Medical workers tell Duterte: Our enemy is COVID-19)

Last straw?

Asked where Duterte got the idea of “revolution,” seeing that medical workers never mentioned this in their appeal, Roque said it may have been a product of ill timing since it came at the end of a series of criticisms raised against Duterte’s handing of the pandemic. 

Lumabas ito ay sunod-sunod kasi na pagtawag ni Senator [Franklin] Drilon na failure ang IATF, sinusugan po yan ni VP Leni Robredo, kasabay po ’yan kumakalat na revolution song,” Roque said, referring to a viral music video of artists singing a Les Miserable song in Filipino. (READ: Duterte puts spotlight on Drilon in SONA 2020)

So ang Presidente po, sabi niya, kung talagang mga nanggugulo ’yung mga nais magsamantala sa pandemic na gusto siyang palitan through a revolution, sige na po, gawin na natin ngayon. Inuulit ko lang naman po ang salita ni Presidente,” he added. 

(This came after Senator Franklin Drilon repeatedly called the IATF a failure, which Vice President Leni Robredo echoed, and that revolution song was spreading. So the President said if people who want to exploit the pandemic are making a fuss and want to change him through a revolution, go ahead and do it. I’m just repeating the President’s words.) 

Despite this, Roque sought to deflect public attention from Duterte’s reaction, claiming that while the President made such comments, he still approved some of the recommendations made by medical workers. 

Roque urged the public to set aside the “issue” as the President was only expressing his feelings. 

Walang isyu naman po ’yun. ’Nilabas lang ng Presidente ang saloobin niya. ’Binigay rin po niya ang hinihingi ng frontliners,” he said. (It’s no longer an issue. The President just expressed what he was feeling. He gave the frontliners what they asked for.) – 

PH health workers infected with coronavirus reach 5,008


Original Article:
Article written by Sofia Tomacruz

The number of health workers who tested positive for the coronavirus rose to 5,008, with majority of infections seen among nurses and physicians.

The Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday, August 3, that 4,576 of the 5,008 cases, as of August 1, had recovered, while 38 died due to the disease.

Among the 394 active cases, 258 or 65.7% were considered mild, 133 or 33.7% were asymptomatic. There were also two health workers in severe condition and one in critical condition.

The DOH said the 5,008 medical frontliners infected included the following:

  • Nurse – 1,734
  • Physician – 1,100
  • Nursing Assistant – 338
  • Medical Technologist – 210
  • Radiologic Technologist – 119
  • Radiologic Technologist – 119
  • Midwife – 92
  • Respiratory Therapist – 43
  • Pharmacist – 41
  • Non-medical Admin Staff – 407
  • Utility – 161
  • Dietary Staff – 73
  • Driver – 64
  • Barangay Health Worker – 50
  • Security Guard – 37
  • Caregiver – 15

During the pandemic, health workers who are severely infected with COVID-19 are supposed to receive P100,000 each, while the families of those who died from the coronavirus should get P1 million each. This was included in the Bayanihan law that expired last June 25.

Despite this, the DOH said it would not need to wait for the Bayanihan 2 measure to be passed into law as the Department of Budget and Management’s Special Allotment Release Order that covers the funding requirements for the implementation of the law is valid until December 31, 2020.

The DOH gave assurances compensation for healthcare workers infected with COVID-19 was still ongoing and that claims will be continually processed until the SARO is valid.

The latest toll of health workers infected by the virus comes as the medical sector pleaded with the government to implement a two-week “timeout” to revisit and refine the country’s strategies to curb the pandemic.

Aside from compensation under the Bayanihan law, the DOH said all health workers will also receive benefits including free life insurance, P10,000 in hazard pay, routine testing, as well as free transport and accommodations to and from their workplaces.

As of Monday, the Philippines reported a total of 106,330 coronavirus cases, including 2,104 deaths and 65,821 recoveries. –

GUIDELINES: What you need to know about MECQ from August 4 to 18


Original Article:

Giving in to a plea from healthcare workers over the weekend, President Rodrigo Duterte placed Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal, and Bulacan under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) starting August 4. (READ: Piqued Duterte taunts doctors to mount ‘revolution’ against him)

Earlier, Duterte extended general community quarantine for Metro Manila until August 15, but revised this after coronavirus cases climbed over 100,000 on August 2.

The guidelines are largely the same as when MECQ was enforced the first time on May 16.

Here’s what you need to know, based on the community quarantine omnibus guidelines as of July 16:

Going Out



Prohibited industries

PH coronavirus cases surge past 106,000, as DOH monitors 887 clusters


Original Article:
Article written by Sofia Tomacruz

The number of coronavirus cases in the Philippines continued to increase on Monday, August 3, as over 3,000 newly-reported cases pushed the total confirmed cases further past 106,000. 

The Department of Health (DOH) said 3,226 new cases were reported by 66 out of 94 labs, bringing the total number of nationwide infections to 106,330. 

Among the top provinces where new cases were found were Metro Manila (1,541 cases), followed by Cebu (503 cases), Laguna (181), Rizal (158), and Cavite (129). 

The number of new cases reported on Monday was lower than previous days’ streak of record-breaking numbers, but showed the further spread of the virus as new infections were still among the highest recorded since the the start of the pandemic.  

The death toll due to the disease is now at 2,104, following 46 more deaths. Meanwhile, recoveries totaled 65,821, after 275 more patients were reported to no longer have the disease. 


Meanwhile, the DOH said it was monitoring 887 clusters nationwide, 741 of which were found in communities.

Other clusters were found in the following areas: 

  • Hospital/Health Facility: 57
  • Jail/Prison: 26
  • Others (workplaces, accommodations, transportation): 63

Of the 887 clusters, 315 were in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the outbreak. 

Call for timeout

The continued increase in cases comes as President Rodrigo Duterte reverted Metro Manila and nearby province to an enhanced community quarantine from August 4 to August 18. The National Capital Region had earlier been placed under a general community quarantine that was supposed to last from August 1 to 15.


Duterte’s decision to tighten restrictions had been prompted by the medical community’s call for a two-week timeout, which medical experts and government officials could use to refine pandemic strategies. 

The medical sector earlier made the plea after it warned the country’s health system was overwhelmed by the surge in cases and that the Philippines was losing its battle against the coronavirus. 

The increasing number of cases in recent weeks has flooded hospitals in the capital region, putting a strain on limited critical care resources and further exhausting health workers who have been at the front lines of hospitals for months. 

While Duterte accepted their plea for a tighter quarantine, he expressed outrage at medical workers making their plea public and dared them to stage a revolution. Medical workers asserted they never made such a call, and urged the government to collaborate with them as the country’s enemy was COVID-19. –

‘COVID-19 is the enemy’: Stars defend medical frontliners against Duterte’s tirade


Original Article:

Angel Locsin, Bianca Gonzalez, Janine Gutierrez, and Vilma Santos are among those rally behind medical frontliners

Celebrities defended the country’s medical frontliners after President Rodrigo Duterte lashed out at them for airing their concerns over the continued rise in COVID-19 cases via the media.

Actress Angel Locsin, who has been active in helping frontliners during the start of the lockdown reminded the government that COVID-19 was the enemy – and not the people.

Nung una, UP ang kalaban, ngayon naman health workers,” she wrote in an Instagram stories Monday, August 3, a reference to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque’s earlier comment about “beating” projections from university researchers last June.

(First, UP was the enemy, now it’s the health workers.)

Pagsuporta ang kailangan, hindi pagsindak. COVID po ang kalaban, hindi ang mamamayan.”(What they need is support and not threats. COVID is the enemy, not the people.)

In a separate post, Angel apologized to medical frontliners and assured them that everyone is behind them in the struggle against the virus.

Patawad kung minsan ay pasaway. Ngunit nais iparating, kakampi niyo kami, health workers. Mag do-doble ingat para makagaan sa pasanin kahit paano. ‘Wag sanang panghinaan ang inyong loob,” she said.

(Please forgive me if I’m stubborn. But I want all health workers to know that we are on your side. We will be extra careful so as not to be a burden to you. Please don’t give up.)

Mahal namin kayo. Naka-suporta kami sa inyo. Kailangan namin kayo. Kayong mga bayani sa giyerang ito. Maraming salamat sa sakripisyo para sa amin.” (We all love you. We’re all supporting you. We need you. You are the heroes of this war. Thank you for the sacrifices you’ve done for us.)

TV host Bianca Gonzalez-Intal tweeting: “To our frontliners, words will never be able to express how thankful we are to all of you, pero sasabihin pa rin namin, maraming, maraming, MARAMING SALAMAT.”

TikTok comedian Macoy Dubs sympathized with medical workers who’ve been working ’round the clock, saying: “More than physical stress, bugbog na bugbog na rin sa mental stress ang mga medical / healthcare frontliners natin.” (More than physical stress, our medical/healthcare frontliners are also mentally stressed out.)

Actress Janine Gutierrez said: “Gulong-gulo sa mga pangyayari but one thing is for sure – salamat frontliners .” (So confused with that’s happening but one thing is for sure – thank you frontliners.)

Sportscaster and TV host Cesca Litton-Kalaw could not help ask why the medical workers were blamed during the speech.

Director Gino Santos and radio DJ and host Sam YG posted on Instagram: “It will take 20 years to replace a physician but only 3-6 years to replace our politicians. Let’s save our doctors!”

Batangas representative Vilma Santos-Recto earlier called on the government to listen to the medical workers.

On Sunday, it was announced that Metro Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Laguna, and Rizal would again be placed under modified enhanced community quarantine.

Members of the medical community later released a statement to remind Duterte of the same thing: that the virus – and not the medical community – was the enemy.

As of Monday, August 4, coronavirus cases in the Philippines reached more than 106,000–

Robredo hits Duterte SONA: Don’t just wait for COVID-19 vaccine



original article:

Vice President Leni Robredo said the Philippines will not be able to stop the crippling coronavirus pandemic if President Rodrigo Duterte’s government will just wait for a vaccine.

Robredo made the statement as she laid out a comprehensive list of suggestions on how the government can improve on its fight against COVID-19 on Wednesday, July 29, just two days after Duterte drew flak for the absence of a COVID-19 pandemic masterplan in his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA). 

“Hindi mapipigil ang pandemya kung basta mag-aabang na lang tayo ng bakuna. Kailangang maampat ang pagkalat nito sa lalong madaling panahon,” the Vice President said in a video posted on her Facebook page. 

(The pandemic won’t be stopped by just waiting for a vaccine. We need to stop its spread as soon as possible.) 

Duterte revealed during his SONA that he had pleaded to China to “prioritize” the Philippines when it develops a COVID-19 vaccine. (READ: Why Duterte shouldn’t just wait for a vaccine from China)

In his almost two-hour speech, Duterte failed to lay out a clear plan to stem the surge of COVID-19 infections and instead launched fresh tirades against oligarchs. 

In contrast, Robredo was able to determine lapses in different aspects of the government’s COVID-19 response and provide concrete ways to fix them – all under 22 minutes.

Much of the Vice President’s proposals are rooted in her consultations with  public health experts, doctors, economists, frontliners, and sectors heavily affected by the pandemic, like drivers and locally stranded individuals.

‘Everything begins with data’

The Vice President reiterated how crucial accurate data is in the next steps the Duterte administration will take in fighting an enemy as formidable as COVID-19.

“Nagsisimula ang lahat sa tamang datos, na pundasyon ng tamang desisyon. Mula dito, matutukoy ang kung sino at aling mga lugar ang dapat tutukan pagdating sa mass testing, contact tracing, at suporta sa mga komunidad at ospital,” Robredo said. 

(Everything begins with data, which is the foundation of sound decisions. From here, we can then determine who and what are the places that we need to focus on for mass testing, contact tracing, and support for communities and hospitals.)

“Kung magiging tama ang tugon sa aspekto ng health care, mako-control ang community transmission, magiging mas mabilis, ligtas, at strategic ang pagbubukas ng ekonomiya, maiiwasan ang pagkawala ng trabaho, at hindi na dadami pa ang dadanas ng kahirapan,” she added. 

(If we respond well in the aspect of health care, then we can control community transmission, make the reopening of the economy faster, safer, and more strategic, and we can avoid job losses and a scenario wherein people are further sinking into poverty.)

Robredo had already outlined some of these suggestions way back on June 30, when she sent a letter to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque after the latter said they are open to the Vice President’s proposed solutions to the health crisis. (READ: Robredo’s suggestions to Duterte admin: Ways to improve fight vs coronavirus)

8 suggested ways to fix lapses

The Vice President identified 8 key shortcomings in the Duterte administration’s ongoing response to the pandemic and provided solutions to fix these problems.

Problem 1: COVID-19 data riddled with errors, inconsistencies

Robredo’s solution: Different experts have devised platforms to serve as repository of COVID-19 data. The Duterte government should study which among these are the most reliable and effective, then adopt this system.

“Linisin at pabilisin ang pagkalap ng datos ukol sa COVID-19. Kung magagawa ito, magiging mas matibay ang pinagmumulan ng mga desisyon, polisiya, at programa para mapigilan ang paglaganap ng virus,” said Robredo.

(Clean up the data and hasten data-gathering methods on COVID-19. If we can do this, then we can strengthen the basis for decisions, policies, and programs aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.)

Problem 2: Slow data validation process by the Department of Health (DOH)

Robredo’s solution: The DOH can tap into universities and other academic institutions to help them validate data on COVID-19 infections. 


“Maraming gustong tumulong, pero may mga pagkukulang sa volunteer management process. Ilista ang mga handang tumulong at ang kanilang kakayahan, at agad na silang iugnay sa mga unit na nangangailangan ng tulong upang ma-maximize ang kakayahang ito,” said the Vice President

(There are a lot of people who want to help, but there are lapses in the volunteer management process. List down all of those who want to help, identify their capabilities, then link them to those in need to maximize this capacity.)

Robredo also suggested the Duterte government to consider pooled testing of suspected cases of COVID-19.

Halimbawa na lang, puwede nilang pag-aralan ang surveillance at pooled testing: Igugrupo ang mga tao at ite-test nang minsanan ang grupong ito. Kung nag-negative na, hindi na sila kailangang isa-isahin pa. Sa ganitong paraan, mas marami ang mate-test, pero mas makakatipid sa mga testing kit,” said the Vice President.

(For example, they can study the use of surveillance and pooled testing. Suspected cases will be grouped and tested together just once. If they test negative, they won’t have to be tested one by one anymore. This way, we can test more people and use fewer testing kits.)

Problem 3: Backlogs in releasing COVID-19 test results and slow contact tracing


Robredo’s solution: The Duterte government should determine which laboratories are recording these backlogs and move to augment their resources so the pending COVID-19 swabs can already be processed. 

The Vice President also proposes for the national government to adopt Baguio City’s effective contact tracing model and apply it to the rest of the country.

Problem 4: The plight of locally stranded individuals

Robredo’s solution: The Vice President said stranded Filipinos must undergo COVID-19 testing for free first before the government brings them back to their home provinces. Temporary shelters that follow physical distancing rules should be provided for them.

Robredo also said local government units should get the necessary support so they can provide enough cash-for-work programs for Filipinos left jobless by the pandemic.

Problem 5: Public health professionals are not being given enough space to lead the response

Robredo’s solution: The Vice President agrees with the government’s push to have a “whole-of-nation” approach in battling COVID-19. But she said this goes beyond making new positions to handle aspects of the response, as the right people should be appointed to lead this fight. 

“Maisagawa sana ito higit pa sa pagkakaroon ng mga bagong posisyon, bansag, o titulo ng mga tauhan. Ang totoong whole-of-nation approach, maayos ang pangangasiwa at kumukumpas sa iisang direksyon. Aling direksyon at sino ang kukumpas? Dapat public health professional na tunay na nakakaintindi ng problema,” said Robredo.


(May we go beyond just giving new positions and titles to officials. The true whole-of-nation approach is all about good management and a clear direction. What direction should we take and who should lead the way? Public health professionals, because they’re the ones who truly understand the problem.)

Problem 6: Efforts of the public and private sectors are not always harmonized

Robredo’s solution: The Vice President said the government should closely work with the private sector so all efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 are in sync. 

Problem 7: Overwhelmed hospitals

Robredo’s solution: Hospitals should always be the top priority, especially in terms of funding.

“Siguruhin na equitable at sistematiko ang pagbubuhos ng resources sa mga ospital para makasabay sila sa demands ng pandemya,” said the Vice President. 

(Ensure there is an equitable and systematic way of allocating resources to hospitals so they can keep up with the demands of the pandemic.)

Problem 8: Lack of support for overall well-being of frontliners

Robredo’s solution: Apart from providing frontliners with enough protective gear, the Vice President said the government should also give them access to free counseling services to protect their mental health. 

She said hazard pay should also be increased.

“Magpatupad din dapat ng sistema para hindi sila maburnout, tulad ng maayos na proseso ng pagrelyebo. Sang-ayon din tayo na dapat maging mas makatarungan ang pasahod sa kanila lalo na sa panahong ganito,” said the Vice President. 

‘Reclassifying’ businesses: Task force’s way of reopening economy without changing quarantine modes



Original article:

The Philippine coronavirus task force had a problem. Many of the country’s major cities, including the capital Metro Manila, remain under general community quarantine (GCQ) due to high COVID-19 infection rates.

But businesses, small and big alike, are floundering because of restrictions on their operations. They’re losing money fast and they fear having to fire employees or end their enterprise altogether.

The government task force’s fix? Instead of waiting for coronavirus infections to drop in these cities in order to safely transition to the looser quarantine classification of MGCQ (modified general community quarantine), they just “reclassified” businesses they previously deemed too dangerous to open under GCQ.

We saw this “strategy” in action when Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque announced that gyms, fitness studios, and personal grooming services will be allowed in all GCQ areas starting August 1.

But these types of establishments were previously considered too risky to open up under GCQ. They were among the “Category IV” industries that would only be allowed under MGCQ.

But in one move, the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) allowed most Category IV industries to operate in GCQ areas like Metro Manila.

One resolution, Resolution No 59, was all it took.

“The IATF approves the recommendations of the Department of Trade and Industry to recategorize Category IV industries to Category III industries thereby allowing their limited operations in areas under General Community Quarantine,” reads the document dated Tuesday, July 28.

They made some exceptions. Category IV establishments like live concerts, art galleries, museums, and tourism destinations remain in the category and thus prohibited under GCQ. They also stipulated that tattoo and body piercing services are not among the aesthetic services now placed under Category III. Thus, they are still prohibited under GCQ.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez also specified that gyms for contact sports like boxing, wrestling, karate, and the like still aren’t allowed under GCQ because of a provision elsewhere in the quarantine rules that bans contact sports.

Still, there was a reason why gyms and fitness studios were deemed too risky to be allowed under GCQ. Experts all over the world have said physical exercise in indoor spaces like gyms could cause infections.

This is because the sustained heavy breathing that comes from exercise, combined with confined spaces that may not be well ventilated, could lead to virus-carrying droplets transferring from one person to another.

To address this concern, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Department of Health (DOH) are supposed to formulate health protocols to be required in gyms.

The decision to allow more businesses may soon apply to Metro Manila, the source of most new infections reported daily and which was nearly placed back on lockdown, or modified enhanced community quarantine, by Duterte if not for the appeal of mayors.

Metro Manila is under GCQ until July 31. GCQ in the megacity has been extended thrice after it was first declared on June 1. Its mayors are recommending an extension of this in August.

The “reclassifying” of businesses done by the task force renders the community quarantine classifications – ECQ, MECQ, GCQ, MGCQ – near-meaningless.

Why have different quarantine modes when the government will just change the restrictions that define those quarantine modes to begin with?

But it could also be the government’s way of conceding that its lockdowns, as initially formulated, were too harsh and there is now more wiggle room because the hospital capacity has been given a boost.

Roque hinted that the quarantine classifications may not play as pivotal a role in the government’s pandemic response after July 31.

“Let’s put it this way: sometimes we have to rely less on classifications. We need to be more innovative in our response,” he told CNN Philippines’ Pinky Webb when she asked what new quarantine classification for Metro Manila the task force is recommemding to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Philippine coronavirus cases breach 85,000



original article:

There are now 85,486 confirmed coronavirus cases in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday, July 29.

The DOH confirmed 1,874 new cases on Wednesday, based on tests done by 83 out of 91 current operational laboratories.

Among areas, Metro Manila recorded the highest number among the new cases – 728 – followed by Cebu with 325.

The DOH reported 16 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total death toll to 1,962. DOH data showed that one of the deaths just reported on Wednesday happened in March, 3 in May, 6 in June, and 6 in July. (READ: No mention of COVID-19 response roadmap in Duterte’s SONA

Of the total number of COVID-19 cases, 56,528 are active cases.

The DOH said most of the cases, or 90.1%, are mild. Asymptomatic cases make up 9%, severe cases 0.5% and critical cases 0.4%.

The DOH also said that it has 11,859 tests backlog for validation as of July 26.

According to the DOH, occupancy for coronavirus and non-coronavirus beds are now at the “warning zone” nationwide.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) announced Wednesday that it will now allow gyms, internet cafes, drive-in cinemas to reopen, but only at 30% capacity, and only in general community quarantine (GCQ) areas.


The current quarantine protocols will expire on Thursday, July 30, but the government has yet to make any new announcements on new community quarantine measures. –