Hardships and perils due to incompetent government

The Duterte regime is slow and dimwitted in facing the Covid-19 pandemic. It has chosen not to fund mass testing, contact tracing and isolation. It is prioritizing its loan-driven infrastructure projects, the purchase of helicopters, cannons and bombs, and of course, pocketing shares in these contracts.

Translation/s: Pilipino | Bisaya

The Filipino people are undergoing grave hardships and face perils as a result of the Duterte regime’s failed response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Millions of Filipinos are facing not only the continued threats of Covid-19, but also the burden of economic measures that worsen the crisis brought about by decades of neoliberal policies.

Over the past days, Malacañang has allowed the opening of offices and factories, after a more than 60-day lockdown. Duterte is rushing to reboot the economy which he shut down in March in the face of the rapid depletion of government resources, worsening problem of hunger and rising people’s anger. Still, because of the failed measures of the Duterte government, the Philippines is still far from controlling the Covid-19 pandemic. Many fear that the country’s health system will be unable to cope once the virus spreads and the number of infected and hospitalized shoots up.

After two months without wages or income, workers are eager to return to work. The toiling masses plunged into poverty and hunger under the lockdown. This is a result of the gross lack of funds for the slow and chaotic distribution of aid. Despite their eagerness, they also fear that once they get back together in the factories or shops, the virus will again quickly spread.

Duterte is veritably exposing workers to danger when it did not require capitalists to provide testing services and that only those with symptoms should be examined. However, according to data, more than 80% of those infected are asymptomatic or experience only mild symptoms. The regime and the capitalists are taking advantage of workers’ desperation to work and earn wages, even if they have to walk several kilometers under the heat of the sun or get stuck in hours of traffic because of left and right checkpoints of abusive police and soldiers.

Recently, the Duterte regime admitted it has no plans of carrying out mass testing. Even amid the pandemic, it insists on its policy of not providing enough funds for health and giving control to the capitalists.

Due to lack of preparations, thousands of nurses and doctors were infected by Covid-19 in hospitals due to lack of protective equipment. It was already in the middle of the pandemic when funds were alloted for purchasing these.

Despite claiming to push the program to “test, trace and treat,” the Duterte government has not alloted enough funds and is relying on big capitalists to buy necessary equipment and run laboratory operations. Even in the face of the pandemic, capitalists still compute their profits.

Testing is being done only on people who are already sick, people they have gotten in contact to, and arriving Filipino migrant workers. However, in times of pandemic, mass testing on those without symptoms or not suspected to have been infected is needed as the key strategy to determine where the virus is spreading in order to isolate the infected, treat the sick and protect those who are not yet ill.

Because there is no mass testing and of the low testing capacity, the regime remains blind to the real extent of Covid-19 infections in the country. Its data is incomplete and does not show the actual extent of the pandemic. It does not actually know how many are asymptomatic and were not brought to the hospital.

It is fine that some local officials have taken measures to have their residents tested. However, without national coordination in such testing efforts, knowledge of the pandemic will be limited to one barrio or town, and efforts will only be wasted.

Because he really has no idea, Duterte is resorting to disinformation, giving false assurances, scare-mongering and threatening people. In the end, it blames the people for the continuing spread of the virus to justify the imposition of more restrictions on the pretext of fighting the pandemic.

The Duterte regime is slow and dimwitted in facing the Covid-19 pandemic. It has chosen not to fund mass testing, contact tracing and isolation. It is prioritizing its loan-driven infrastructure projects, the purchase of helicopters, cannons and bombs, and of course, pocketing shares in these contracts. It has not provided enough capital to fund local scientists and researchers to manufacture enough equipment for testing the virus and other needs to fight the pandemic.

It is more busy with its scheme to establish a fascist dictatorship. It has the military and police in command of the government’s pandemic response. It is busy suppressing complaints rather than addressing these. A number of people who have expressed disgust (“kill Duterte”) have been arrested, alongside the shutting down of ABS-CBN. The police are getting away with their abusive punishment of people for “misdemeanors.” It uses terror to silence everyone. Now, even the funds under the “social amelioration program” (SAP) will be given to the dirty hands of the AFP, to make sure, there will be no more complaints.

To the Filipino people, we must not merely bear the burden of Duterte’s failed response and abuse of power. Duterte and his officials must be held accountable for causing gross hardships and suppression of the people during the lockdown. They must be made responsible for their failure to carry out necessary health measures for the country to defeat the pandemic. We must not remain silent.

On the contrary, we must express with all our might and manifest in various ways our anger and protest against Duterte’s failed and oppressive measures.

Continue to demand the national government to mount a mass testing program as key response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Continue to push for strengthening the health system, especially the public hospitals and laboratories across the country, hiring more nurses and health workers and raising their wages. Fight for necessary subsidies for food, medicine and medical attention to take care of the health of the elderly who are vulnerable to Covid-19.

Hold the Duterte regime accountable for the gross lack and slow distribution of aid under the now two-month lockdown. Expose and denounce how Duterte’s bourgeois comprador partners are exploiting the pandemic to earn profits and evade taxes in the name of helping and donations.

Workers must demand health measures in factories and offices. They must push for wage increases, a national minimum and hazard pay for work during the pandemic. They must fight as well for regular jobs and for their right to unionize and collective bargaining. In the face of the crisis brought about by the prolonged lockdown, the small capitalists can unite with workers to push the government for emergency funds to enable them to pay wage hikes.

Genuine land reform must be pushed as the only way to bring life to the rural economy. Denounce widespread land-use conversion for infrastructure and tourism projects, plantations and mining, and the push for growing commercial timber and fruits. Demand free land distribution and subsidies for food production and building local industries for processing of local agricultural products.

Fight measures that worsen oppression including additional taxes to pay the government’s almost $4 billion additional loans. Expose and condemn the “infrastructure” plan that will further pull the country deeper into debt and crisis, especially those which trample on people’s rights and damage the environment.

The Covid-19 crisis has brought to the surface the extreme rottenness of the semicolonial and semifeudal system. It has exposed the country’s dependence on imported material and equipment. It has exposed the crisis-ridden and unproductive economy.

Because of the hardship and oppression under the Duterte government’s failed response, it is but just for the Filipino people to demand Duterte’s resignation or the ouster of his incompetent government. This is the most effective way for the Filipino people to fight and defeat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hardships and perils due to incompetent government