Fight Duterte’s scheme to extend emergency powers for fascism and unbridled corruption
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) calls on the Filipino people and all revolutionary forces to fight the regime’s attempt to railroad the extension of the Rodrigo Duterte’s emergency powers under the Bayanihan Act which is set to expire next month.
The extension will only give Duterte, his cohorts and favored capitalists much wider latitude for siphoning hefty kickbacks and profits from huge funds supposedly intended for combating Covid-19. It would also extend his authority to usurp legislative authority and set himself up as strongman with the AFP and PNP as his attack dogs.
Over the past days, Malacañang has been pushing to extend Duterte’s emergency powers by three more months, or six months “if necessary.” The pronouncement is very much in line with Duterte’s propensity to “unli-extend” draconian powers, like he did with martial law in Mindanao which lasted for almost 1,000 days. As before, his minions in the Senate and House of Representatives are set to rush to rubberstamp this.
Over the past two months, Duterte used his emergency powers to realign hundreds of billions of public funds to the pockets of big bureaucrats, amend fiscal policies, and make special purchases under the guise of Covid-19 response, all without the benefit of public bidding, transparency or accountability.
With Duterte’s imprimatur, Health Sec. Francisco Duque III ordered the procurement of grossly overpriced medical equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE) and Covid-19 testing kits. Among those purchased were nucleic acid extraction machines for P4 million which can be bought for less than half the cost at P1.75 million, as well as PPE (P1,800 per set) and swabbing kits (P1,600 each) which are priced at P400-P1,000 and P600 respectively.
Having imported from China at least 11 million PPE sets at P21.8 billion since March, Duterte and his officials would have pocketed at least P10.8 billion (with PPE priced at P1,000 per set) to P17 billion (at P400 per set). This is in the purchase of PPE sets alone.
With emergency powers, Duterte and his officials act without obligation to reveal procurement contracts or disclose what companies are involved in the purchase of these billions worth of PPE sets and medical equipment using public money.
Neither is the regime transparent nor accountable to the people in implementing its emergency amelioration programs wherein hundreds of billions of pesos have been appropriated to. According to its reports as of May 25, the regime has already disbursed a total of P163.41 billion for its emergency amelioration programs for various sectors supposedly benefiting 17.4 million indigent families (approximately 70% of the total number of households), as well as 4.9 million displaced workers, drivers, farmers and OFWs.
Amid prevalent reports of large numbers of people not receiving any aid, and without accounting, it is not highly unlikely that billions of pesos of so-called amelioration funds also ended up lining the pockets, not only of some unscrupulous barangay officials, but of Duterte’s key officials themselves who hold the keys to the country’s treasuries. This is set to further worsen as funds for SAP distribution will now be coursed through the military and police which are extremely notorious for corruption and abuse of power.
Worse, for close to three months under military lockdown, families on the average received a mere P5,743, which is equivalent to a meager subsidy of P75 per day. The said amount is way too insufficient to make ends meet especially in this time of pandemic. Under Duterte’s emergency powers, government incompetence and bureaucratic red tape has further worsened. As a result, 10.7 million families (or 79% of the 13.5 million targeted aid recipients of SAP funds) suffered and waited for over a month before they received the first tranche of subsidies. Until today, 370,667 families are yet to receive the subsidy intended for them. The second tranche of subsidies have yet to be released.
Duterte used his emergency powers for unbridled corruption and suppression of democratic rights. Over the past months, his regime failed to put into place a comprehensive plan to undertake mass testing, tracing and isolation as the key strategy to contain the pandemic, and instead resorted to imposing a military lockdown as a sledgehammer militarist approach to managing the Covid-19 pandemic.
Further extension of emergency powers will only expand the worse of the regime’s tyranny and corruption. Duterte will certainly invoke this to give a new push to the stalled implementation of its Build, Build, Build program under the guise of reviving the economy in order to further plunder public funds and line up the pockets of his minions and favored capitalists. The people are bound to suffer more as this will give Duterte the power to issue new and higher taxes to fleece the poor while allowing his favored big business oligarchs to rake in greater profits.