To express the indignation of Filipino migrants against the Duterte regime’s heavy-handed response to the COVID-19 recession and pandemic, Migrante International is one with other sectors and progressive organizations in calling out President Duterte’s inutility at this period of great adversity.
Apart from being among the countries in the world with the lowest test rates, the number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines has surged to 4,932 (number one in Southeast Asia) with 315 deaths (2nd in Southeast Asia). According to the Department of Health, it has already conducted 33,814 tests so far. This is a far cry from Vietnam’s 121,821 tests, zero deaths and only 265 positive cases.
The Duterte regime’s militarized approach to a public health emergency is evident in his vicious emphasis on the word “arrest” in his late night ramblings. He even had the gall to blame the Left for his blunders as if he is without extra emergency powers accorded to him by his henchmen in Congress. He has the authority to reallocate items in the national budget for programs that would address the public health crisis. However, the regime prefers to misuse taxpayers’ money through fake news and counterinsurgency propaganda by having the Philippine Army drop counterinsurgency leaflets on two towns in Mountain Province. OFWs in Hongkong have likewise reported about large counterinsurgency banners posted on sidewalk railings.
Without long-term foresight, President Duterte is more than willing to plunge the country further into debt. Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Bayan Muna Chairperson Neri Colmenares pointed out that the Duterte government still has Php 85 Billion from both the contingency funds and the National Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Management. Aside from these, the Duterte regime still has billions of confidential and intelligence funds which should be tapped to give relief to starving workers, farmers, the urban poor and distressed OFWs. Moreover, it may consider a debt-service moratorium to help the country recover from the debilitating effects of the COVID-19 recession and pandemic.
It is also ridiculous that President Duterte pretends that the regime’s labour export program has nothing to do with the mass exodus of healthcare professionals overseas. For years, health workers have been demanding salary hikes and substantial increases in healthcare spending to boost medical services for the public. Today, there is only one doctor for every 33,000 patients and only one public hospital for every 230,000 people. Our frontline workers are overworked, underpaid and understaffed. Was it not Solicitor General Jose Calida who blocked the Supreme Court petition that sought to raise the salary of public nurses? For the longest time, our frontline workers have suffered discrimination and unequal treatment from their own government. One only has to look now at the high fatality rate of frontline healthcare workers in the country.
President Duterte in his speech likewise revealed that the Philippines is “on the“last ladder” of countries that will be getting the “antibody” medicine for COVID-19. There is no doubt that the absence of national industrialization efforts in the pharmaceutical industry has made the country overly dependent and at the mercy of advanced foreign countries when it comes to access to medical resources like surgical masks, PPEs, vaccines and medicines. The country lags behind in terms of government funding for scientific and medical research projects.
We will never forget that while the rest of the world was rushing to contain the pandemic, President Duterte initially dismissed public fears, declaring that everything is well and that the virus would eventually “die a natural death.” The people heard it and the catastrophic impacts of Duterte’s apathy are just too hard to ignore. Having Duterte at the helm when the country is being ravaged by a pandemic and financial recession must be written in the annals of our collective memory as the worst period in the country’s post-World War Two history. The Filipino people have been suffering terribly from his inutility. He better resign now or get ousted!
Solusyong Medical, hindi militar!
Tulong hindi kulong!
Bigas hindi dahas!
Ayuda, hindi diktadura!