The Covid-19 pandemic has become more than just a health concern
From being a health crisis, the situation brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic has rapidly developed into an economic, social and political crisis. More and more get infected and die in the Philippines and across the globe. Simultaneously, more and more Filipinos suffer from hunger, disease and other hardships brought about by Duterte’s lockdown imposed without comprehensive, sufficient and immediate health and economic measures in place.
The Duterte government is too slow to implement much needed mass testing as an immediate measure to contain the spread of the disease. Three weeks since the lockdown, only more or less 19,000 individuals have been tested while this has to be extensively conducted in communities. Despite the powers given Duterte to realign public funds, only a small amount was allocated to support health workers and aid public hospitals to keep up with the pandemic. The government is acting too slow amid supply shortages and is relying on initiatives by the private sector. Corruption is exposed with its procurement of overpriced equipment.
The longer the lockdown, millions more are made to suffer from hunger by the government. The budget allocated is way too insufficient to compensate all those who lost their jobs and income. The distribution of aid came very late and many are yet to be compensated. Officials of various agencies are passing the buck. It has become stark that the Duterte government is incompetent and incapable of leading amid the crisis. Many are dependent on the quicker and more extensive aid provided by volunteers, mass organizations, private associations and other groups.
Duterte is using an iron fist in facing the public health crisis. He has deployed police personnel and soldiers at the frontline and in command of the government’s machinery to address the health crisis. He further suppressed the people’s right to speech and assembly. Duterte openly threatened anyone who will not abide by his rules and “incite chaos” with a shoot to kill order. Duterte imposes terror while the masses are distressed and left hungry by the lockdown and negligent government.
The longer the lockdown, Duterte’s incompetence and incapability to rule and comprehensively address the people’s plight is further exposed. Millions of toiling masses and the middle class are becoming more desperate because of hunger, scarcity and depletion of their savings and loss of livelihood.
In the countryside, the peasant masses are driven to deeper poverty by roadblocks preventing the free flow of farm produce, and restrictions on transportation and food purchase. Despite Duterte’s ceasefire declaration, AFP and PNP counterinsurgency operations continue unabated and have intensified. At least 146 barangays are currently occupied by the military. In some areas, soldiers conduct house-to-house inspections without wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the disease. Under the guise of fighting the spread of Covid-19, soldiers mounted checkpoints to restrict travel and prevent people from tending their farmlands and buying food.
To beat and contain the pandemic, the Filipino people need to stand up, act collectively and work together to prevent the spread of the disease and demand the government to provide aid in this time of crisis. At the same time, they must defend their rights and welfare that are being trampled upon by the regime’s militarist solution.
They must continue to demand an end to the lockdown and for implementation of measures such as mass screening and testing in communities in order to immediately contain and prevent the spread of the virus. Thousands of health workers and volunteers must be mobilized, trained, and provided with sufficient funds and equipment. Now is the time to clamor for the strengthening of public hospitals instead of undermining these under the policy of spending cuts on health services.
While Duterte’s lockdown is in place, the people must demand the quick distribution of sufficient aid for all. They must hold the Duterte regime accountable for its slow, insufficient and non-transparent distribution of aid.
Amid the lockdown, the collective aspirations of the people are primarily gathered in urban and rural poor communities. The people’s hardships are concentrated in these areas. Communities must creatively act to collectively express the entire nation’s plight and demands. They must act in their numbers to fight and surmount Duterte’s threat to suppress all mass actions.
To face the Covid-19 pandemic and in response to the United Nation’s call for a “global ceasefire,’ the Party declared a ceasefire on March 26 that will remain in effect until April 15. We directed NPA units to focus on providing health services in barrios despite being continuously disrupted by AFP operations and raids which have resulted in at least seven armed encounters. Amid relentless AFP offensives, the Party reminded all NPA units to uphold their discipline in maintaining secrecy to deny the enemy an opportunity to attack and to ensure wide latitude for the NPA to continuously provide services to the masses. Organizations and forces in the countryside must be mobilized to assert economic demands and plan for increasing food production in preparation for the imminent shortage due to the lockdown and production stoppage.
While Duterte insists on his fascist dictatorial methods, he continues to isolate himself from the people. Duterte stinks even more because of the Covid-19 crisis brought about by his regime’s failures. His regime is shaken by crumbling support. Every time his dirty mouth opens and with his every misstep, he further enrages the people and fires up their courage. He has at times gave in to people’s demands to ease the situation. It remains to be seen whether he can stop the people’s anger from boiling over or if he will be totally engulfed by the people’s burning anger.
The heavy impact of the Covid-19 in the Philippines exposes the rottenness and fundamental contradiction of the ruling semicolonial and semifeudal system. It revealed the incapacity of the ruling state to address the plight of the people. The need for revolutionary change to establish a new people’s democratic system that will uphold the interests of the Filipino people has become ever clearer.