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

President Rodrigo Duterte apologized to tycoons Ayala and Pangilinan during his late night televised speech for the hurtful words he uttered in the past. He said sorry on the same day his office submitted the sixth COVID-19 report to Congress which revealed, among others, that more than six million households have yet to receive emergency cash aid from the government.

After seven weeks of lockdown, it is unacceptable that millions are still left to fend for themselves because of the government’s failure to deliver aid. Congress granted Duterte ‘special powers’ precisely because of the urgency of the situation and the assumption that authorities will act swiftly to extend assistance to affected segments of the population.

But Duterte and his subordinates were not only slow and inefficient, they were opportunistic in invoking the public health crisis to impose repressive lockdown restrictions. Instead of focusing in rolling out a comprehensive medical and social reform response, they weaponized the quarantine protocols which led to numerous rights abuses and overkill deployment of troops in impoverished communities.

Duterte has yet to apologize for the bungled COVID-19 response. He threatened to attack those who will protest against the lack of relief. He chose to spread terror and fear instead of acknowledging the government’s shortcomings in addressing the COVID-19 crisis. His incoherent late night speeches have only worsened the unease of many. His unscientific arguments put to shame what amateur fake news peddlers are posting on the internet. And now he is depriving millions of accessing accurate information by allowing the closure of broadcast network ABS-CBN.

Instead, Duterte chose to be humble to Ayala and Pangilinan. This should not be a private matter between the president and these billionaires especially if the latter are accused of previously signing contracts that are against public interest.

And if Duterte is really sincere in owning up to his errors, he should first apologize to millions of Filipinos who are still desperately waiting for relief. He should apologize to those who were made to believe that the government will be quick and efficient in containing the spread of the virus.

It is not enough to discuss the easing of quarantine restrictions after 15 May. This government must be made accountable for the inadequate distribution of aid despite the allocation of funds for the crisis. It should answer for the lockdown abuses, the criminal neglect in responding to the pandemic, and the impunity in the corrupt use of public funds during an emergency situation.

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