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 by Bayan Metro Manila

We support pro-active LGU response to COVID-19 amid the slow roll-out of mass testing and inadequate delivery of aid by the national government

We support the initiative of several Local Government Units to proceed with localized mass testing as an emergency but essential measure to contain the community transmission of COVID-19.

The national government said it will begin mass testing on 14 April, more than a month after it enforced a lockdown in mainland Luzon. The Department of Health also initially rejected the application of Marikina to set up its own laboratory testing for COVID-19 cases. The reluctance to immediately acknowledge the importance of mass testing and the bureaucratized establishment of testing centers have seriously undermined the overall campaign to contain the spread of COVID-19.

LGUs like Marikina and Valenzuela are justified in partnering with medical institutions in conducting mass testing in their cities.

We urge the government of President Rodrigo Duterte and his subordinates to respect local autonomy. It should extend assistance to pro-active LGUs instead of invoking the misnamed “Bayanihan to Heal As One Act” which penalizes LGU officials who ‘disobey’ national regulations.

We also welcome the announcement of Pasig LGU and other cities that they will shoulder the inadequate aid allotted to them by the national government. This will partially lift the anxiety of many families which have been excluded from the list of beneficiaries under the government’s ‘social amelioration program’.

On the other hand, we assert that the Duterte government should not pass the burden to LGUs and mislead people about the role of local officials in distributing relief. It has the power to suspend pork barrel and unproductive intelligence funds and realign these items to the COVID-19 emergency response.

The slow action and the lack of transparency about COVID-19 statistics, the gridlock in the distribution of subsidy, and the overall plan on how to beat COVID-19 have raised doubts about the government’s capacity and capability to lift the lockdown in two weeks and address the social impact of a prolonged pandemic.

Many people are increasingly frustrated with the government’s failure to properly communicate its strategy in addressing COVID-19. It’s militarist approach in enforcing the lockdown reveals its repressive approach in silencing criticism.

It is in this context that we see the pro-active LGU response as a reflection of the national government’s failure to fulfill its pledge in using the ‘special powers’ granted by Congress to swiftly enact COVID-19 measures. LGUs owe it to their constituents to remain fast and innovative instead of simply waiting for the delayed assistance from the national government.

The people are outraged over the slow-paced implementation of medical measures and the handing out of socio-economic assistance. Bayan-led chapters in many communities in Metro Manila are scheduled to hold a noise barrage protest to reiterate our urgent demands: Cash subsidy for the 18 million families and all those who need it, free mass testing, establishment of local quarantine and laboratory centers, protection for frontliners, lifting of repressive restrictions, and release of political prisoners on humanitarian grounds.

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