Enough is enough! Fight for people’s democratic rights and interests amid pandemic!

After around three months, the Covid-19 pandemic continues to claim victims, cause unemployment and widespread hunger, and threaten the entire Filipino people. This is because the Duterte government’s response to the pandemic has been slow and inadequate, heavily reliant on profit-oriented big business, marred by corruption, and militarist and oppressive especially against the poor.

Instead of strengthening the health system, specifically in capacitating the country for mass testing, the Duterte regime has resorted to repeated lockdowns as a sledgehammer militarist approach to a medical problem. It has intensified the suppression of the people’s democratic rights. This has resulted in an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and further economic devastation for the Filipino people.

To help prevent the spread of the virus, the Filipino people, especially the toiling masses and the middle classes, have sacrificed a lot in the past three months under the Duterte regime’s martial law lockdown and “enhanced community quarantine.” However, their sacrifices have not been matched with rapid and sufficient response from the Duterte government.

The regime has failed to deliver promptly and adequately the food and economic assistance it promised. With Duterte’s imprimatur, public funds have been realigned to the pockets of corrupt bureaucrats and military officers through overpriced purchases and outrightly false accounts. Feeding its own corruption, it continues to push its neoliberal agenda that relies on foreign investments and debt-dependent infrastructure projects at a time of global economic downturn. It continues to prioritize funding for purchasing helicopters and other war matériel.

Meanwhile, the health system remains weak and grossly lacks funds. Without mass testing and contact tracing, the government remains blind to the real extent of the Covid-19 spread. It is holding the Filipino people hostage to the narrow “vaccine first” mantra to deflect attention from the corrupt handling of public funds and justify the undemocratic measures against the people, while ordering the easing of restrictions on big business operations and infrastructure projects.

The regime has failed to manage the contagion. Its militarist mindset prevents it from taking take the necessary and appropriate health measures, and continues to rely on martial law measures and suppressing the people as its overriding response to the crisis.

Enough is enough with government incompetence, corruption, militarism and mispriorities amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The Filipino people must unite and raise their voices to assert their democratic rights and interests amid the pandemic.

1. Demand that the government fund free mass testing efforts to serve as the commanding heights of the country’s pandemic response, instead of lockdowns and wholesale quarantines. Set up sufficient number of public laboratories for Covid-19 testing. Demand the mass mobilization of health workers and people’s volunteers for contact tracing.

2. Demand emergency funding to strengthen and establish public hospitals and medical facilities across the country, provide sufficient protective equipment for nurses, doctors and health workers and raise their wages. Raise the capacity of public health facilities to handle Covid-19 cases, as well as to attend to other medical cases and health emergencies. Demand free hospitalization of Covid-19 cases to encourage infected people to seek treatment.

Demand funding to establish state enterprises for mass production of testing equipment, as well as personal protective equipment including face masks, face shields, goggles, aprons, gowns and others to lessen dependence on importation and answer demands of the local market. 

Demand increased funding support for Filipino scientists to conduct research to develop a vaccine and call for international cooperation for vaccine development.

3. Demand prompt and complete delivery of sufficient food and economic assistance as promised and allow access to jobs and various means of livelihood to prevent mass hunger from causing more illnesses and deaths on top of Covid-19. Demand suspension of payments for electricity, water and rent and prohibit disconnections and evictions. Demand transparency in the disbursement of public funds and hold government officials accountable for overpricing and other forms of corruption.

4. Demand democratic access to exact and real-time data and critical information, including geoinformation showing where there are Covid-19 cases and where there are none to enable the people to proactively and appropriately act to stop the spread the virus. Ensure patient confidentiality. Respect the people’s right to privacy and ensure that social and health data remain in the hands of the public sector, and beyond the reach of private companies to exploit.

5. Demand wider community-based public education to raise the people’s scientific knowledge about the virus. Demand the government to listen to the people. Demand a stop to the suppression of the press which impede the flow of critical information with regard the pandemic and other social and national concerns. Put a stop to censorship and political harassment of private citizens and red-tagging of activists in social media and other platforms. Support the demand to immediately allow ABS-CBN to return to broadcast over free-air.

6. Demand measures to address the already grave social and health impact of the pandemic and the 3-month lockdown on vulnerable sectors such as the elderly, those with underlying illnesses (including mental conditions), healthworkers, pregnant women, women in general, as well as people who were forced to evacuate due to militarization and natural calamities. Address the needs of women who aside from being at the forefront of homes and their children’s educations, are also at the frontlines of the Covid-19 battle as the majority of healthworkers are female. Demand an end to sexual exploitation and abuse as women and girls are forced into prostitution by the crisis or by the police and military in exchange for favors.

7. Demand the immediate decongestion of prisons. Demand the mass release of elderly prisoners, and political prisoners, as well as those convicted of non-violent crimes with short sentences.

8. Demand immediate removal of restrictions on livelihood and work, travel, education and other economic, social, religious and political activities within and across regions, provinces, cities and towns where there are no cases or very minimal number of cases of Covid-19. Demand the removal of police and military checkpoints where grave abuses happen everyday. Demand the restoration of the people’s right to peaceably assemble in a safe manner in their communities and public spaces to express the people’s grievances.

9. Demand appropriate and targeted quarantine measures to the smallest possible area (street or barangay) to carry out testing, isolate the infected, treat the sick, protect the vulnerable in order to break the virus’ chain of transmission. Carry out targeted quarantine in a democratic and acceptable manner with the participation of community organizations and local health volunteers. Ensure socio-economic support for residents of communities that are to be quarantined.

10. Demand immediate removal of restrictions against peasants/farmers from working in their farms. Demand the withdrawal from rural communities of AFP soldiers whose presence and operations increase the probability of spreading the virus in the countryside.

11. Demand a safe working environment for workers and employees and demand companies to provide safety equipment, free distribution of hygiene kits, face masks or face shields, free and regular Covid-19 testing, and higher hazard pay for workers during the pandemic.

12. Demand the right to safe public mass transportation by having more trains to prevent congestion. Provide subsidies for jeepney and tricycle drivers and operators and smaller bus companies to enable them to provide health safety in their public utility vehicles and compensate for loss of income while they are forced operate below capacity without raising fares.

13. Demand funding to establish health protocols and infrastructure in public and private schools to allow students to resume classes in a safe environment. This includes more schools and classrooms to reduce class sizes, more teachers, more public spaces for sports and play, as well as regular testing for teachers and school personnel. Demand state funding for alternative teaching methods to supplement classroom learning. Demand a reduction in the cost of telecommunications and internet access to facilitate supplementary online education.

14. Demand economic subsidies and assistance for workers, peasants and low-income families in order to surmount the crisis and help stimulate economic demand and domestic production. Demand emergency subsidies for workers and returning overseas Filipino workers who lost their jobs due to the economic crisis, drivers and other transport workers and other small income earners. 

Demand wage increases and a national minimum wage to raise the standards of living of workers across the country. Demand the rescinding of the government order allowing companies to “voluntarily” reduce wages. Demand full support for returning overseas Filipino workers by providing free testing, quarantine accommodations and transportation to their hometowns.

15. Demand a suspension of land rent, cancellation of peasant debt and funding support for agricultural production for small farmers to help increase food production. Demand free distribution of land to peasant tillers.

16. Demand funding support for small businesses and small professionals to enable them to resume economic activity in a safe manner and continue to earn reasonable profits. Demand fund support for small landlords to compensate for suspension of house and land rent.

17. Demand a suspension of automatic debt payments. Demand the immediate realignment of intelligence and confidential funds of Malacañang and other government agencies. Demand a suspension of the AFP modernization program for the purchase of helicopters, missiles, artillery systems and bombs. Demand the suspension of the TRAIN law, the withdrawal of Duterte’s oil tax and a rollback in the prices of fuel and other basic commodities. Demand higher taxes on big business and imposition of taxes on the financial and non-financial assets and luxury spending of the biggest capitalists and landlords, and oppose the plan to cut corporate taxes and give tax deductions to big corporations. Oppose the plan to impose new taxes on consumers.

The Filipino people must unite to resist the attempt to railroad the extension of Duterte’s emergency powers by three or six more months. Three months under Duterte’s emergency powers have only redounded to an undemocratic, fascist, profit-oriented and corruption-ridden response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The fight against the contagion can only be effectively carried out by the Filipino by demanding Duterte and his ilk of incompetent, corrupt and militarist-minded officials to resign.

If Duterte refuses to heed the people’s clamor, it is incumbent upon the Filipino people to unite and act collectively to cause the ouster of the tyrant Duterte. A successor government must take immediate steps to establish a broad emergency humanitarian front to unite the Filipino people in their collective effort to fight the Covid-19.

Enough is enough! Fight for people's democratic rights and interests amid pandemic!