“Si Duterte ang pinakamasahol, pinakanakamamatay at pinakapahirap na virus na nanalasa sa mamamayan.” (Duterte is the worst, most lethal, most burdensome virus to afflict the Filipino people.)
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Progressive groups labeled President Rodrigo Duterte as ‘worse than the COVID-19 virus’ on his fourth year in office.
Wearing masks and observing physical distancing, thousands of protesters gathered at the Liwasang Diokno inside the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) compound, June 30.
In a fiery speech, Kara Taggaoa, spokesperson of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) said, “Si Duterte ang pinakamasahol, pinakanakamamatay at pinakapahirap na virus na nanalasa sa mamamayan.” (Duterte is the worst, most lethal, most burdensome virus to afflict the Filipino people.)
Taggaoa underscored the incompetent and inefficient COVID-19 response of the Duterte administration. She said that while government claims that the country is winning the fight against COVID-19, the Philippines has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the region.
As of June 29, the Philippines, with 1,225 number of COVID-19 deaths, is the highest in Southeast Asia, based on data from Johns Hopkins University and Southeast Asian Health Ministries. The Philippines also has the highest number of reported COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, with 983 new cases as of June 29.
Health workers, too, have lamented the Department of Health’s poor response to the crisis, with the public health care system being overwhelmed.
Jocelyn Andamo, secretary general of Filipino Nurses United, said there are now 3,360 health workers infected by the virus. Of this number, 1,226 are nurses.
Andamo revealed that until now, many public hospitals rely on donations for supply of personal protective equipment (PPE). Testing for health workers should be every 14 days but Andamo said that asymptomatic health workers are not being tested.
“Where did they spend the money? It should have been allotted for mass testing,” Andamo said in Filipino.
With the rising cases of COVID-19, Andamo fears that more cases will be recorded among health workers. She said that quarantine days of doctors and nurses have been shortened due to lack of human resources. At the Philippine General Hospital, for example, nurses take seven quarantine days, instead of 14. At Philippine Heart Center, it’s been reduced to five days while nurses at Tondo Medical Center are no longer allowed to have a break.
Epidemic of rights abuses
Besides the poor response to the health crisis, progressive groups also pointed out that the Duterte administration has been busy terrorizing the Filipino people.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights alliance Karapatan, said that four years under Duterte also means an “epidemic of fascist attacks, state terrorism, and injustice.”
Palabay said Duterte’s sham “war on drugs” and counterinsurgency program have claims thousands of lives. Official figures showed at least 8,663 have been killed in “anti-drug operations.” Meanwhile, Karapatan documented 293 cases of extrajudicial killings in line with the counterinsurgency program as of November 2019.
“If the terror bill is enacted into law, we will experience an intensified epidemic of human rights violations,” Palabay said in Filipino.
Various groups and sectors also highlighted their worsening economic conditions brought about by Duterte’s policies.
Raymond Palatino of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-National Capital Region lambasted Duterte for getting loans but not providing enough aid for the poor. The Duterte administration clinched US$5.6 billion from the Asian Development Bank and World Bank purportedly for the COVID-19 response.
According to independent think-tank Ibon Foundation, about 9 million out of the target 18 million poor households received only one tranche of emergency aid. Considering that P98.3 billion has been distributed to 17.5 million households as of June 27, Ibon computes that the first tranche averages out to P5,617 per family, or just P53 per day over 106 days of COVID-19 lockdown.
Anakpawis, meanwhile, pointed out that Duterte’s “militarist approach totally disregarded its impact on the economy, that resulted in the record-high 17.7 unemployment rate in the country last April.”
The group summed up Duterte’s four years as anti-poor. “Peasants remain landless, workers with low wages and without job security, urban poor families are being evicted from their communities, and worse, the poor are being killed by this regime,” Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis said.
Progressive groups are also enraged over Duterte’s treachery in the last four years.
“Duterte is a traitor to the Filipino people,” Taggaoa said, citing how Chinese vessels are encroaching in Philippine waters and how American troops are allowed to join military operations in the country via the Visiting Forces Agreement.