Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Published on Bayan Metro Manila Facebook page

The first week of quarantine did little to assure the people that the government is on top of the situation and that it can handle the COVID-19 pandemic.

While majority of Luzon residents were quick to stay home under quarantine, the government remained slow in addressing the basic needs of the people.

As food aid was slow to arrive in many cities, many expressed frustration over the lackadaisical response of several LGUs. We share the same sentiment. But we hold the Duterte government accountable for creating this preventable suffering.

Its vague quarantine directives were easily used to sow disinformation and unauthorized barangay-level guidelines which only worsened the panic and unease in many communities.

There was no clear strategy to alleviate the suffering of minimum wage earners, street vendors, and displaced workers who are suddenly deprived of means to survive on a daily basis.

The president’s inconsistent and incoherent statements confused many LGU leaders and other frontliners. First, he appeared to empower LGUs in providing direct service to their constituents, but he later restricted the initiative of innovative LGU leaders by admonishing them to strictly comply with the orders of the national task force.

The Duterte government cannot escape responsibility for its criminally negligible actions and inactions. It slashed the funding of the health sector, it was slow in responding to the COVID-19 threat despite early warnings from other countries, it relied primarily on militarizing the solution to the crisis instead of mobilizing health personnel and community volunteers, and it remains stubborn in refusing to acknowledge the need for a free, massive, and systematic testing to contain the spread of the virus.

We enjoin LGUs to focus on delivering urgent relief to the people instead of expanding curfews and imposing draconian penalties. This includes the rolling out of credible testing kits at the community level if the national government continues to reject the demand for mass testing.

We ask both Houses of Congress, which are scheduled to hold an emergency session, to ensure additional funding for the public health and social welfare sectors. The bloated funding for the lumpsum intelligence funds of various agencies, including those allotted for the Office of the President, must be rechanneled in the campaign against COVID-19. There must be clear conditions that the funds will be earmarked to create quarantine centers, the procurement of testing kits and laboratories, and the delivery of aid to the people.

We urge legislators to resist in giving dictatorial powers to the Duterte government which has a bloody record in upholding human rights in the past four years. We reject the imposition of authoritarian measures which are being peddled in the name of addressing a public health crisis. Our rights should not be placed in lockdown even if we are under quarantine.

We salute all frontliners for their sacrifice, bravery, and dedication in their service to the community. We vow to mobilize Bayan chapters and members if more volunteers are needed by LGUs at the barangay level. We laud members of various people’s organizations which launched an information drive to educate their neighbors about COVID-19

Finally, we ask our kababayans to speak loud and clear from our homes until our voices of anger and dissent are heard in Malacanang Palace. We should expose how the ill-conceived solutions of the government are breeding greater inequality and suffering in our marginalized communities. Let us protest from our homes even as we take special measures in protecting our health and the welfare of our families.

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