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

The confirmation by military and police authorities that state forces are preparing for a Martial-Law type of lockdown is proof that President Rodrigo Duterte’s late night speeches pose a great danger not only to public health but also to our democracy.

Police and military officials told media that they initiated preparations after hearing the president issuing a directive about the possibility of imposing a measure similar to Martial Law as part of the government’s COVID-19 response.

It is a reminder that when the president talks, his words may carry different meanings for many citizens but for members of the security sector, they constitute a direct order coming from the nation’s commander-in-chief.

Duterte’s incoherence is problematic since ground troops and commanders might enforce an order based on their arbitrary interpretation of the president’s speech.

When Duterte uttered the ‘shoot them dead’ threat and the possible declaration of Martial Law, the public responded by vigorously debating the legality if these orders are carried out. But for the military and police, the president’s words might serve not just a guide but an order to obey.

Is the president making directives through his late night speeches? It appears to be the case based on the announcement of the police and military. It is alarming not only because the seemingly harmless and unfunny ramblings of the president are weaponizing the COVID-19 response, they are also being used as basis to draft policy actions sans public accountability.

The public is tormented by Duterte’s uninspiring speeches which are also bereft of a detailed plan on how the government will address the COVID-19 crisis. Instead, he is abusing his privileged platform to make insane threats and unscientific arguments without providing a transparent report about the status of the government’s overall COVID-19 response.

And now the revelation that police and military forces are not just simply listening but also waiting for specific instructions from their commander-in-chief.

Martial Law preparation exposes the militarist framework of the COVID-19 response. The government is readying more repressive lockdown measures instead of focusing on medical solutions and social welfare programs.

We call on Congress to probe the Martial Law preparation by the police and military. We ask LGUs to remain fast and innovative in distributing aid to their constituents.
We reiterate our call for a comprehensive health-based program to fight COVID-19. This includes mass testing, tracing, treatment, and establishment of quarantine and laboratory centers across the country. Implementation of social protection measures must be a priority, and this requires the immediate elimination of red tape, bureaucratic delay, and partisan intervention.

Our people’s organizations are one with other civic institutions in establishing community initiatives to extend assistance to the needy, even as we continue to protest the slow and inadequate social protection provided by the national government. We are also ready to resist any attempt to subvert our democratic rights.

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