APRIL 08, 2020
Over the past week, Duterte and his officials have carried out a PR offensive, mounting one publicity stunt after another to praise themselves and paint an image of a government doing everything right to confront the Covid-19 crisis situation.
The television and radio broadcast earlier where cabinet officials flattered each other and fawned over the tyrant, was a disgusting display of self-promotion. It is, so far, the most nauseating public stunt mounted by Duterte and his sycophants.
Government officials are prematurely declaring that the lockdown has successfully controlled the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, as they have yet to carry out testing on a mass scale to determine the actual extent of the spread.
Duterte’s officials have made the patently false claim that the Philippines has one of the lowest incidence of infection in Asia and in the world. They cannot deny, however, that thousands remain infected with the Covid-19 pandemic which is now stretching the country’s health system to its limits.
They vainly hope to placate and pacify the Filipino people in the face of rising social discontent brought about by Duterte’s ill-planned lockdown and his government’s failure to act expeditiously to extend social assistance to the people.
The people are not appeased. For almost a month now, they have been without work and income. The daily cost of food and other necessities have eaten up their meager savings. They are desperately trying to make ends meet, with limited assistance doled out by local government units, church groups and private individuals, and helping each other through common kitchens and other collective undertaking.
Deficient amelioration, corruption and counterinsurgency
The Filipino people are set to suffer more as the lockdown has been extended to the end of April without any accompanying extraordinary effort to alleviate the people’s socioeconomic suffering.
After three weeks of rising clamor, the national government finally carried out a so-called amelioration program which, however, is too little and too late. It promised to provide cash assistance to 18 million families, but has so far released funds enough to cover only around one-third.
Duterte is being tightfisted in providing relief assistance to the people. The scanty amount of P5,000 per family cannot cover the rising cost of living for the next three weeks or so of extended lockdown. His officials have enumerated so many exclusions, including employed workers, senior citizen pensioners and 4Ps recipients, who the government depicts as having enough.
The “amelioration cards” distributed by the government are not enough. Local officials are complaining of being forced to choose “who will live and who will die.” There are cases where families are made to share in the meager cash allotment or receive none at all.
There is rising clamor for the government to release P10,000 cash relief for every low and middle-income family who have lost at least a month’s income because of the lockdown.
There is practically zero assistance reaching the countryside for the peasant masses. They suffer from the economic lockdown which has prevented them from selling their agricultural produce resulting in large financial losses. This comes on top of oppressive land rent, high loan interests, very low farm wages, dislocations brought about by land-use conversion and other problems.
There is mounting criticism over the meager amount allotted by Duterte for cash assistance. After declaring “I have the money,” Duterte is now singing a different tune, claiming he is having “sleepless nights” worrying where to get the money.
Yet, he has refused to undertake major realignments in the national budget, specifically, infrastructure projects for tourism and mining, that are partly funded by loans from China and other foreign lenders.
Nor has he made moves to slash the bloated budget for the DND, AFP and PNP, which is primarily used for counterinsurgency operations, to fund the corruption-riddled purchase of more firearms, bombs and other war materiél and the so-called “livelihood projects” that serve as milking cow of military officers.
Despite declaring a March 19-April 15 ceasefire, and acceding to the United Nations’ call for a “global ceasefire,” Duterte’s military and police counterinsurgency operations continue unabated. In some provinces, more soldiers have been deployed to intensify the AFP’s “surrender drive” against the peasant masses. There are reports of soldiers going around homes at night in the guise of Covid-19 information drives, but wear no protective gear, thus raising the probability of spreading infections.
Since Duterte’s ceasefire declaration, military and police operations have been conducted in at least 80 towns covering at least 150 villages.
Poorly compensated medical workers, dilapidated public health system
The Duterte government has been patronizing in its treatment of the frontline doctors, nurses and other health workers, praising them hypocritically and calling them heroes but playing dumb to their safety and demands. It is obscuring the fact that the government has long neglected the country’s public health workers and denied their clamor for salary increases. In fact, this year’s budget for the Department of Health was cut by P16.6 billion, without provision for raising salaries.
In the face of the Covid-19 crisis, and with lack of protective equipment, hospitals have become dangerous places to work for hundreds of health workers, scores of whom have been infected and died in the course of their service. The public health crisis has underscored the urgency for raising the salaries of health workers. Thus, Duterte’s recent order giving them a “risk allowance” of less than 25% of their monthly salary is a grave insult.
Duterte’s officials are praising themselves, claiming that because of the lockdown, they have been able to prepare the health facilities for the Covid-19. These are, however, mostly temporary facilities to quarantine patients, without the necessary medical equipment to handle patients requiring intensive care. In recent days, large private hospitals have started to refuse to accept more Covid-19 patients.
The Covid-19 crisis has exposed how the public health care system has long been neglected by the government under its policy of corporatization and privatization. The present health crisis is raking in large profits for private hospitals which charge hundreds of thousands to more than a million pesos to Covid-19 requiring intensive care.
Meanwhile, from the earlier policy of covering the bills of Covid-19 patients, the PhilHealth system has announced it will start to limit its coverage of Covid-19 treatment starting April 15, curiously, the day after the DOH plans to start conducting mass testing.
People are not appeased
In the face of worsening hardship and hunger, the Filipino people are not appeased by the false claims being peddled by the Duterte government.
Despite threats by Duterte to have them arrested or shot dead, the Filipino people continue to raise their voices in indignation, to speak and expose the real situation, belie the claims of the regime and demand what is due the people.
The Party enjoins the Filipino people to get organized and raise their voices as one. From their homes and communities, they can find ways to act together to denounce the Duterte regime’s oppressive lockdown and its failure to urgently, comprehensively and sufficiently address the people’s dire socio-economic conditions.
The longer Duterte’s lockdown is imposed, the longer the people’s anger builds up. The people’s fury cannot forever be suppressed.