COVID-19: Paracetamol, ibuprofen and other anti-fever drugs should be avoided

By Romeo F. Quijano, M.D.

Paracetamol, ibuprofen and other anti-fever drugs should be avoided, nothwithstanding the World Health Organization’s (WHO) flip-flopping advise regarding ibuprofen use for COVID-19 symptoms.

The reason cited by WHO in retracting its earlier advise to avoid using ibuprofen is that they “are not aware of any reports of any negative effects of ibuprofen beyond the usual known side-effects that limit its use in certain populations” and “are not aware of published clinical or population-based data on this topic”(1).

There are in fact several published reports and studies, including clinical and population-based studies, that show the negative effects of paracetamol, ibuprofen and other anti-fever drugs if used in several types of viral infections (2,3,4,5,6). COVID-19 patients should not be presumed to be exempted from these potential negative effects. The WHO should not expect at this time, while the pandemic is raging,   to find published clinical and population-based studies specifically showing these negative effects in COVID-19 patients. Their main concern should be to protect COVID-19 patients from unnecessary risks because of irrational use of anti-fever drugs.

Fever is a natural defensive response against infectious disease. Fever is an ancient, evolutionary survival mechanism that is jeopardized by anti-fever synthetic drugs. Fever stimulates the innate and adaptive immune responses of the sick person, including the activation and mobilization of defensive cells and endogenous chemicals of that person to assume multiple roles (2) to the path of recovery and harmony with the environment. The use of antipyretic drugs to diminish fever may increase mortality in human populations with viral infection (3) and negatively affects patient outcomes in the intensive care unit (4). A variety of NSAIDs (ex. ibuprofen) have been shown to inhibit the antibody production in human cells (5). Aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen have also been shown to interfere with antiviral immune functions influencing the duration of viral shedding in rhinovirus infected humans (6). 

In my opinion, fever in most cases should not be interfered with unless it exceeds 40 C.  The age-old practice of frequent, vigorous sponge bath with warm water (without making the patient too uncomfortable) with adequate fluid intake is probably still the best management option. Appropriate nutrition, adequate ventilation and other supportive kind of treatment should also be done. Vitamin (ex. high dose Vitamin C) and mineral supplementation may be useful. Traditional medicine modalities (ex. use of herbal medications) may also help. When excessively high fever (>40 C) persists despite conservative treatment, the selective and appropriate use of synthetic antipyretics may be considered on a case to case basis especially if there is delirium, inability to sleep, and excessive anxiety.

(1) Updated: WHO Now Doesn’t Recommend Avoiding Ibuprofen For COVID-19 Symptoms.

      AFP, 17 MARCH 2020.

https://www.sciencealert.com/who-recommends-to-avoid-taking-ibuprofen-for-covid-19-symptoms

(2) Fever and the thermal regulation of immunity: the immune system feels the heat.

      Evans SS, Repasky EA, Fisher DT.

      Rev Immunol. 2015 Jun;15(6):335-49. doi: 10.1038/nri3843

(3) Population-level effects of suppressing fever. Earn DJ, Andrews PW, Bolker BM.

     Proc Biol Sci. 2014 Jan 22;281(1778):20132570. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2570.

     PMID: 24452021.

(4) The effect of antipyretic therapy upon outcomes in critically ill patients: a

     randomized, prospective study. Schulman CI, Namias N, Doherty J, Manning

     RJ, Li P, Elhaddad A, Lasko D, Amortegui J, Dy CJ, Dlugasch L, Baracco G,

     Cohn SM. Surg Infect (Larchmt). 2005 Winter;6(4):369-75.

(5) Ibuprofen and other widely used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs inhibit antibody production

      in human cells. Bancos S1, Bernard MP, Topham DJ, Phipps RP.Cell Immunol. 2009;258(1):18-28.

      doi: 10.1016/j.cellimm.2009.03.007. Epub 2009 Apr 5.

(6) Adverse effects of aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen on immune function, viral shedding, and clinical status in rhinovirus-infected volunteers. N. M. H. Graham, C.

= = = = =

 Notes:

1. J. Burrell, R. M. Douglas, P. Debelle, and L. Davies,  The Journal of Infectious

2. Diseases, vol. 162, no. 6, pp. 1277–1282, 1990.

The author is a retired professor of the Department Of Pharmacology and Toxicology, College of Medicine, University of the Philippines-Manila.

Pimentel’s caper and this administration’s true legacy

A senator of the Republic is currently reaping the whirlwind after announcing he learned he is positive of the corona virus disease (Covid-19) while accompanying his wife to a hospital delivery room. The Makati Medical Center is livid with Senator Koko Pimentel for what it described as a breach of Covid-19 home quarantine protocols. Pimentel is also being pilloried online, and understandably so.

Pimentel’s ill advised caper followed widespread denunciation of reports that senators, other high government officials and their families pressure the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine to have their test kits processed ahead of everybody else’s, including those who display symptoms of the dreaded disease. Resentment is strong among the people who are being forced to observe the lockdown imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte despite the lack of a logical plan on how the lockdown should be implemented, save for the deployment of police and military personnel with assault rifles on checkpoints throughout Luzon island.

Pimentel’s gambol is not helping the government convince it is doing a good job in containing the spread of the virus. Aside from the utter lack of mass testing to pinpoint where the virus is spreading the fastest, what Pimentel and fellow senators Francis Tolentino, Imee Marcos, and others have demonstrated is their utter disregard for the people, particularly the poor, sick, elderly, and the frontline health workers who need to be tested first with the limited kits that are available.

This has led the people (at least those who have internet connections at home) to launch trending tweet campaigns that demand accountability, such that even this government’s well-oiled troll armies could no longer cover up. President Duterte’s obvious absence isn’t helping his spin doctors any. If he does go on television (often at ungodly hours of the evening) he could only manage rambling speeches that help very little in calming the nerves of an already nervous populace.

The populace’s nervousness is understandable. In communities, the people are afraid whether they would be able to feed themselves or whether there are still food items to be bought until the month-long lockdown ends. The fact that they are also humiliated—such as in Parañaque where those suspected of violating the so-called community quarantine are tortured by being forced to sit under the heat of the unrelenting sun or are harshly and publicly berated—contribute to the growing resentment.

I was in Switzerland and The Netherlands when the Covid-19 pandemic shifted to the region as its new epi-center earlier this month. Countries were also closing their borders and lockdowns were imposed one after the other. But there are no checkpoints in communities and the police do not carry assault rifles to terrorize the people into staying indoors. Only food stores and pharmacies are allowed to remain open but, pretty much, the governments rely on their citizens to comply with self-quarantine requests without unnecessary force. When I arrived back here, all I saw is the overwhelming exercise of state power through the police and the military. Even those who need to be at work because they are real frontliners in the fight against the virus are finding it hard to do their jobs because of the overly-strict and illogical edict of banning all forms of transport.

The Covid-19 crisis is the Duterte government’s Mamasapano and Hello, Garci crises of the past two administrations. If it slides through this one, it would only be through the heroism of the frontliners (doctors, nurses, hospitals, relief and emergency workers, and others) who battle through despite lack of supplies, absence of clear directions and plans, and even through thick-headedness and cheekiness of the likes of Pimentel. How this administration runs around like a headless chicken, albeit full-battle geared, in one of the country’s direst moments is turning out to be its true legacy to the people. #

Love in the time of corona has left the group chat

By L.S. Mendizabal

You are now probably jaded with the barrage of information and opinions—some educated and quite helpful and others downright moronic—on “flattening the curve” circulating here on the Internets. I know I am. But there’s something we need to commit to memory as long as we still enjoy three square meals a day in the midst of this pandemic pandemonium. Repeat after me: We are the lucky bastards, the privileged stinkin’ suckers.

Philippines in lockdown

The working class whom some of us have called “tanga,” “pasaway” and even “motherfuckers” of late cannot afford steady internet connection to keep abreast of the latest developments in the national and global COVID-19 crisis. Most of them have only the Malacañang Palace to turn to for advice, which means that they are likely to ward off the virus by eating bananas and gargling saltwater. Those who reside outside but work in Metro Manila who don’t have a television or electricity at home might not have known about the enhanced community quarantine guidelines and found themselves stuck in Manila without any money to spare for food for the long walk back home now that mass transport has been suspended. People crossing the city boundaries experienced having to literally run in agitation over the armed authorities’ 30-minute countdown before lockdown. Meanwhile, thousands have been held up in the streets by a sheer number of AFP-PNP personnel in full battle gear pointing only two or a few more thermal scanners at people’s heads, interrogating their identities, who they were with, where they were going and why. Once the number of patients infected with COVID-19 began to rise in the Philippines, the administration’s knee-jerk response was militarization. “Obey first before complaining.” Groundbreaking.

Honestly, I was not the least bit surprised by the total lockdown, given that Duterte has been consistently grabbing every conceivable opportunity to maintain his fascist reign. Neither am I as dismayed by the exponential spread of COVID-19 as I actually am by the callousness of so many posts and comments, some of which are made by friends or acquaintances (or are they still?), on social media regarding the plight of the least fortunate—those who cannot afford to “work from home” and must brave the outside world to, I don’t know, probably earn money, find food and shelter maybe? It must also be noted that ironically but not surprisingly, the people who are calling the poor “pasaway” and “naghahanap ng sakit” are the same ones who called them “bobotante” after last year’s botched elections. How disgustingly swift some people have ceased to be humane after their #quarantinediaries selfies earning likes and follows are rudely disrupted by news of the poor struggling to continue living despite government’s orders for them to essentially stop doing just that. How sickening and revolting it has been to know how some of us might act in dire situations such as these, safely perched in their homes, watching TV, clicking and swiping on links in their smartphones or laptops while more than half of the Filipino populace are fighting for their lives in conditions more precarious than ever before, less fearful of the virus and more of hunger and ejection from their homes that may or may not have their own bathrooms and running water to begin with, if they had homes, that is.

The Philippines pre-COVID19

I wish I could write about something more optimistic to lessen our collective anxiety or a detailed objective analysis and critique of the nation’s healthcare system (a.k.a. an easy target for the trolls because apparently, they’ll defend anything their golden calf does), but what really keeps me up at night is not the shortage of 70% isopropyl or ethyl alcohol in stores but the seeming scarcity of empathy in many Filipinos I’ve encountered, at least online. Naturally, the prevailing people in power will do most anything in order to stay in power, while the powerless and exploited will always find ways to fight back. That’s just the kind of society we were born into, sadly. But I’m afraid that this element of “class struggle” has somehow left the consciousness of many a Filipino as we deal with this new unseen enemy they are so afraid of that they cannot be bothered about their fellow Filipinos, especially if in huge crowds in congested places.

In other words, y’all missing the context. Before Luzon went on lockdown, many things have happened in the Philippines besides Sarah Geronimo’s secret wedding. Here are the following, to remind you of a few:

  • The pending ABS-CBN franchise renewal;
  • Apart from non-remittance of taxes, reports of various crimes linked to POGOs, most of which have victimized Filipino citizens, have risen to an alarming rate;
  • Millions of Filipino drivers, operators, dispatchers, mechanics and their families and commuters face the impending jeepney phaseout as well as the inevitable fare hikes as the PUV Modernization Program pushes through in June this year;
  • Contractualization of workers remains rampant despite Duterte’s promise to end ENDO. Police offices have also been erected in Central Luzon industrial zones, a clear threat to workers’ rights to self-organize and fight for their basic interests and welfare;
  • Filipino farmers and millers are plunged further into bankruptcy because of the liberalization of rice importation which has resulted into the Philippines, an agricultural country, currently being the world’s biggest importer of rice;
  • Mindanao is still heavily militarized even after the lifting of martial law, where Lumads are driven to mass exodus as their lands get overrun by military and paramilitary forces, their schools being closed down, their leaders and allies harassed or killed. Meanwhile, Marawi remains in ruins as true rehabilitation has yet to take place;
  • Human rights violations keep recurring as elements of the state continue to redtag, file trumped up charges against, abduct and murder social activists, human rights workers, journalists, church leaders, lawyers, environmentalists and other critics. Last Tuesday, in the thick of the COVID-19 lockdown and Duterte’s incitement of ceasefire between the AFP and CPP-NPA, choreographer and activist, Marlon Maldos, was abducted and killed in De la Paz, Cortes in Bohol province; and all along,
  • The proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is still underway, which seeks to repeal the Human Security Act of 2007, amending provisions to supposedly strengthen the government’s campaign against terrorism. Simply put, these amendments may lead to anyone getting accused of being a “terrorist” and punished for “terrorist crimes.” For instance, journalists in Cagayan de Oro City and Iloilo City campaigning for the ABS-CBN franchise renewal have been tagged as “communist-terrorists.”

It may sound like it but I am not reading all this as if it were the apocalypse. I only want you to understand that the nation has already been in a state of catastrophe even before the COVID-19 lockdown, and the two main takeaway points here are: 1) No matter how shitty, life goes on, especially for the working class because they have no other choice; and 2) Extreme militarist measures have caused us, notably the poor, more fatal harm than good. So to all those who dared repost photos of progressive groups holding placards that called for a medical solution to the national crisis, and saying that they deserved to be shot down by the military or hurt in any way, please know that persecuting people for fighting for ourrights only highlights your ignorance and apathy. They could have chosen to stay safe and quiet, indeed, but they sacrificed a day out in the streets before eventually bringing the protests online, albeit in masks and at arm’s length between each other, to speak out for you. And yet, you choose to not see the significance of protest in fascist times like these when so many are being terrorized, even slaughtered, into silence. You have neglected the fact that protest and dissent have taken you to where you are today, when you can call yourself a Filipino, enjoying unfiltered internet connection in your cozy house slippers and your soft couches with your Netflix subscriptions and smug faces. You lucky basturd, you.

One may credit this online idiocy to deindividuation, which social psychology defines as the loss of self-awareness because of the feeling of security that stems from anonymity or being in a mob or group like, say, Marcos apologists or passive-aggressive millennials who buck at anyone and everyone on Twitter but can’t bring themselves to ask for ketchup at the fastfood (just a personal observation, sincerely no offense meant). Deindividuation does not, however, make people any less liable for their actions. With or without the COVID-19 crisis, cheering on any human rights violation is just vile and an abuse in itself. If you disagree with the protests, fine. You do you. But please do not attempt to gag them just because you are in a position of privilege. I know you could not afford to house your entire family at St. Luke’s Medical Center if you caught the virus. Leave the discrimination and the bigotry to the elite.

Love in the time of COVID-19 and fascism

Now, more than ever, when the national setting is being engineered to be more conducive to isolation, deindividuation, individualism and segregation, when “social distancing” is the new norm, the Filipino people must strengthen social solidarity. We may not be able to physically link arms with one another, but there are many ways to fortify our unity and national spirit, as proven by:

  • The brilliant scientists and artists who have worked hard to create the COVID-19 test kits and sanitation tent design, respectively;
  • The doctors, nurses and health workers who actually respect human rights and tirelessly toil in and out of the hospitals in spite of the slashed health care funds and lack of facilities and resources;
  • The journalists, researchers and writers who keep us properly informed through the news, online public service announcements and statements;
  • The governors, mayors and other government officials and their staff who are present on the ground, making sure that their constituents are being looked after;
  • The government and bank employees, telecommunications workers, pharmacists and other agents who uphold their duties to secure the daily operations of our most important institutions and systems;
  • The responsible netizens who use social media as an effective platform to launch campaigns that extend all sorts of help to those in need such as petitions, donations and food distribution for the homeless who cannot self-quarantine, free rides for those who are forced to walk across cities because of the absence of public transit, and many other efforts; and last but definitely not the least,
  • Our farmers and farmworkers, some of whom are collecting harvest now as you read this, the workers in the factories, truck drivers, security guards, grocery salespersons, clerks and baggers, couriers, street sweepers, garbage collectors, vendors and the rest of the underprivileged but hardworking masses who are the main reason we are able to eat food that isn’t stale, have clothes on our backs, sleep soundly in relatively cleaner and safer neighborhoods, or for the smokers to even remotely have access to a pack of cigarettes.

The Philippines we woke up to this morning is a fascist authoritarian’s erotic fantasy— stifled press freedom, empty streets, no jeepneys, tricycles or public vans servicing commuters, no teachers or students in schools, no work, food and shelter for the poor, and no mass testing to keep people in the dark while we are being divided and conquered, slowly massacred, or in the case of those who dare criticize him, abducted and killed. Martial Law can’t even.

Our democratic space is constantly shrinking into a cramped cell and only the few and the powerful will not be held prisoners. So unless you see this as a bright future for yourself and your children, you might want to rethink if apathy and blind faith is indeed convenient for you and your fellow human beings. Perhaps now is the time to stock up on an unlimited supply of love, empathy, kindness and compassion, and courage partnered with critical thinking. If there’s anything our long history of Filipino social struggles have proven time and again, it is that nothing can defeat a united front—not an army of foreign colonizers, not a single viral sickness or a single tyrant.#

= = = = = =

Sources:

Socialite Cat Arambulo calls workers getting arrested on TV “motherfuckers” and other elitist reactions to COVID-19 lockdown:

https://www.rappler.com/rappler-blogs/254956-opinion-out-of-touch-elitist-gaps-lockdown

Panelo claims eating bananas is effective to combat COVID-19:

https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2020/03/16/2001322/fact-check-panelo-says-korea-did-total-lockdown-eating-bananas-and-gargling-prevents-covid-19

People running to cross city boundary:

Cagayan de Oro City and Iloilo City journalists campaigning for ABS-CBN franchise renewal tagged as “communist-terrorists”:

Mendiola ng buhay natin

Ni Prop. Rolando Tolentino, PhD

Unang sinulat ng may-akda ang piyesang ito noong Enero 2008. Kahapon, Enero 22, ginunita ang ika-33 anibersaryo ng Mendiola Massacre. Wala pa ring katarungan para sa mga biktima ng krimen.

Malalaki ang bilang na dumadalo ng mga rali noon. Libo-libo, madalas umaabot din ng daan-daang libo. Kasagsagan pa ng People Power I, at kahit pa marami nang nanamlay sa kilusan at bumalik sa gawi ng gitnang uring pagnanasa, mas marami ang nanatili sa hanay.

Nasa kilusang kabataan at estudyante ako noong 1987, kasama ng College Editors Guild of the Philippines. Sa panahong ito, pinapalawak ang pambansang kasapian. Binubuhay ang mga rehiyon at eskwelahang nawalan ng ugnay sa organisasyon. Pinapaigting rin ang ugnay sa iba pang organisasyong pangkabataan at iba pang sektor.

Malaki ang bulto ng nagrali. Ang daming magsasakang nangunguna sa rali, galing sa iba’t ibang lugar ng Luzon. Karamihan, nakatsinelas lang. Umabot ang rali hanggang sa sandaan ng Claro M. Recto at J.P. Rizal. Ito ang paanan ng tulay ng Mendiola, at ang maiikling kalsada ng Mendiola.

Nasa harap kami ng U.E., at ito na nga ang kahiya-hiyang unibersidad na ang harapan ay ginawang sine at mall. Walang dangal na ang pangunahing harap ng unibersidad na kilala sa disenyong art deco ay biglang naging mall. May Jollibee sa bukana rin ng kampus.

Bigla na lang may putukan sa harapan. Ang kalakhan ng nasa rali ay nagsipagdapaan sa kalsada. Nagtaka ako, nakisigaw ng “Makibaka, huwag matakot.” At ilang mabilis na sandali pa ay nagkakandakumahog ang mga tao sa pagtakbo paatras. Naririnig kong nagpapatuloy ang putukan. Sunod-sunod, parang armalite. Malakas at nakakapangilabot na ang amoy ng kumakalat na tear gas. Ang daming ginamit ng militar para umamoy hanggang sa tinatakbuhan naming sa Recto. Tumungo kami sa gilid ng kalsada sa aming pagtakbo. Sa Recto kasi, maliban sa unang palapag, ang ibang palapag ay nakalabas sa sidewalk. Inisip kong mas ligtas ito kaysa tumakbo sa mismong kalsada.

Kumaliwa kami ng karipas sa Morayta tapos ay sa isang institute sa kabila ng Quezon Boulevard. Doon nagtipon ang mga dinisperse sa rali. Nagkaroon ng komand na tumungo sa Liwasang Bonifacio. Hindi pa malinaw na marami na palang namatay at nangasugatan sa paanan ng Mendiola.

Larawan sa paggunita sa ika-33 na anibersaryo ng Mendiola Massacre kahapon, Enero 22.

Sa Liwasang Bonifacio, nagsimula rin ang programa. Kabado ang marami pero nagpatuloy pa rin ang nagsasalita sa ibabaw ng jeep. Biglang may pulutong ng militar na sumunod sa Mendiola. Patuloy pa rin ang pagbatikos sa dispersal ng nagsasalita. Nagsimula muli ang putukan. Hanggang dito ba naman ay sistematikong dini-disperse ang rali. Tumakbo kami sa likod ng Post Office, umabot sa likod ng National Press Club.

Mangilan-ngilan na lang kami at natagpuan namin ang aming sarili na nasa ibabaw ng nakadaong na barge sa Pasig River. Mahapdi na ang mga mata namin dahil sa dami ng tear gas na pinasabog para matiyak ang pangalawang dispersal. May nakaisip na sumalok ng tubig sa ilog at gamitin ito para basain ang panyo at ipantapal sa mata. Naisip kong hindi nga kami mamamatay sa putok ng baril, mamamatay naman kami sa tetano dahil sa dumi ng tubig. Pero ito o lalo pang humapdi ang mga mata.

Sumakay akong papunta ng Faura at doon ay sumakay ng jeep pauwi sa Mandaluyong. May komand na huwag matulog sa sariling bahay, bilang pag-iingat sa hindi natatanyang pangyayari. Nakitulog ako sa kaibigan sa Makati. Tinatawid ng bangka ang bahaging ito ng Pasig River para makarating sa bahay ng kaibigan ko.

Mainit ang sabaw ng nilagang buto-buto. At totoo namang sabaw na lang ang naging ulam ko dahil biglaan ang aking pagdating. Ikinuwento ko ang pangyayari sa kaibigan kong manunulat at siya man ay may balita batay sa nasagap niya sa radyo at telebisyon. Nakinig din kami ng radyo bago ako natulog sa sala.

Dalawang beses pang mauulit ang mahabang araw na may kinalaman sa Mendiola. Una ay ang libing ni Rolando Olalia mga anim na buwan pa lamang matapos ng matagumpay na People Power. Mula sa U.P. Chapel at bago ilibing sa sementeryo sa Mandaluyong, idinaan ang bangkay ni Olalia at ng kasamang pinaslang nito sa Mendiola. Ikalawa ay ilang buwan lamang matapos ng tinawag na Mendiola Massacre, inilibing naman ang pinaslang na lider estudyante na si Lean Alejandro. Mula U.P. Chapel, nagmartsa ang daan-daang libo sa Mendiola bago ihatid sa Malabon.

Ang Mendiola ay dambana ng kontemporaryong pakikibaka ng mamamayan. Dito sa kanyang paanan, namumulat ang daan-daang libong nakikibahagi sa kolektibong karanasan sa kilusang pakikibaka. Dito sila inaalay, namumulat, idinadaan bago ilibing, nagiging martir at anak ng bayan. Dito sinisingil ang tampok na simbolo ng estado. Ang maikling daan ng Mendiola—sa pagitan ng magkabilang dulo ng Malakanyang at sambayanan—ay ang saksi sa digmaang-estado. #

Launch a Truly-Pro Masses Relief Program

by Edberto M. Villegas, PhD

If the government were just pro-masses than pro-rich and pro-foreigners, it would have directed the Philippine Army or even the Philippine National Police (PNP) to use more trucks so they could pick up the animals, cattle, horses, pigs, chicken, etcetera suddenly left by the evacuees in Batangas in their habitats in order to escape the eruption of Taal volcano last Jan. 12. Whether they wanted to stay behind in their houses or take their animals with them, the evacuees found themselves in a very difficult position because they were ordered to evacuate and they do not own trucks to carry their animals with them. Army trucks, which have transported the population affected by the eruption, should also fetch the animals of the evacuees to save the livelihoods of the latter. More trucks should have been provided by the Philippine Army or the PNP as many of these are just standing idly by in military camps. It is to be noted that the army has acquired 219 new trucks from South Korea in 2017 to augment their other hundreds of trucks. Surely, not all of these are being used to fight the rebels or are they?

If the government were just right-minded, it should bring the rescued animals and even fruits to public lands to sell or auction to interested parties to help the devastated families of the volcanic eruption. The owners of these animals have no more space to care for them as their abodes have become uninhabitable and they are willing to sell their animals to the public to obtain capital to start anew in life. This is the least that a responsible government can do for the thousands of Batangueños and others displaced by the eruption as the masses are the foremost capital of society which make it rich with their labor power to run our agricultural and industrial sectors, but with workers always at a losing end because of low wages given to them by the owners of the means of production. Many Batangueño hog and chicken farmers as well as cattle raisers are even paying good taxes to the government which augment the latter’s coffers. The government has allocated P30 billion as emergency supplemental budget for calamity fund to the approved regular budget of P20 billion of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management, making the total calamity fund at P50 billion in the P4.1 trillion budget of 2020. It must be pointed out that the calamity fund has been decreased by P11 billion in the 2020 national budget. Compare this to the increase of the budget for the Office of the President by 21% from P6.8 billion in 2019 to P8.24 billion in 2020. The P4.5 billion of the Office of the President budget is meant for his so-called confidential and intelligence fund, including monetary rewards to PNP officers who can neutralize drug personalities! The calamity fund instead of being decreased should be raised tenfold since the Philippines lies in a disaster-prone area, as witnessed in its numerous floods, earthquakes and volcano eruptions, which have come in series last year and this month of January. It is more called for now to increase the calamity fund as the Philippines has been declared by the UN as among the leading countries in the world to be affected by climate change.

Bayan Muna representatives Ferdie Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat, along with former Representative Neri Colmenares distribute relief goods to victims of the Taal Volcano eruption.

Compare further the measly amount of the regular calamity fund at P20 billion to the allocated budget for the payment of interest alone of our foreign debts, which has increased by 13% from P399 billion in 2019 to P441 billion in 2020, all to be passed on to the Fillipino people. The Duterte regime has borrowed anew from the Chinese for his so called Build-Build-Build program, mostly expected to be funded by Chinese banks. The BBB program of Duterte is mere bluster as befits him because of the 75 projects planned, only nine have been started and it is already the last lap of his term. Many of these projects will just enrich Chinese banks and firms like, for example, the Kaliwa Dam project in Quezon Province, costing $3.7 billion, 85% of which will come from Chinese loans and which will displace hundreds of Dumagats from their ancestral lands. Why is Duterte so partial to Chinese loans when its interest rate is so high, at 2 to 3% per annum compared to Japanese interest rate which is 0.25% to 0.75%? The loans from China are also all tied-loans, which means we will have to purchase its technology and machines and hire Chinese personnel and workers to undertake a project.

Instead of having a development program only meant for show or to grandstand but which is becoming chaotic for lack of careful planning as the BBB which Duterte has dubbed the “golden age of infrastructure”, the government should prioritize the welfare of the general masses. A huge special Industrial Fund for SMEs (small and medium scale enterprises) and Agricultural Fund for farmers should be put up to extend to borrowers low-interest or no interest loans, depending upon the status of a family. These loans can also be augmented by a great portion of government savings every year and the calamity fund lying stagnant in banks. Such industrial and agricultural loans shall include bigger loans for capital investments by Filipino entrepreneurs like pig and chicken raisers, and shops and store owners whose livelihoods were destroyed by a calamity. Evacuees are desperately in need of financial help to start a new life and it is the task of a government to live up to its role as caretaker of the common good, instead of surreptitiously juggling its revenues to favor special interests specially in Congress. A great part of the government revenues come from the masses, especially from Train 1 and 2 or the tax increases of basic goods which have hit the ordinary consumers so hard but reduced the taxes of the rich. The Industrial and Agricultural Funds intended for development undertakings by the majority masses must be increased substantially annually to accelerate national development and prosperity instead of hiking such unproductive fund like the budget for the Office of the President which as we indicated above rose by 21% in 2020 from 2019.

It is about time that preferential allocation be made for Filipino enterprises, including farming ventures, since small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs), owned by Filipinos, employ 60% of the national labor force and not the big companies, including the MNCs. Wages in all Philippine enterprises should also be closely monitored by the Department of Labor and Employment. Daily wages should be mandated by law to increase to P1500 which will give at least a decent living to a family of five due to the decline of the real value of the peso caused by the constant rise of consumer prices, which had been particularly taken advantage of by the Western oil companies, specially American and British. These foreign oil companies had almost every month raised oil prices, particularly that of gas so that we have the most expensive gas prices in Southeast Asia. The basic wages and salaries of all government workers should likewise be raised to the decent level of living as with private workers. And whenever there is a rise of prices of goods and services, wages and salaries should be indexed to them or adjusted accordingly. The rationale for the increases in the national budget to favor the Filipino masses and the protection of their economic well-being by laws is that it will tap their full productive capacity which will benefit the whole of our society.

Relief goods being distributed to victims of the Taal Volcano eruption.

As for the budget for the construction of new houses in designated public lands for those evacuees whose homes were destroyed, the responsibility will fall on the lap of the Department of Human Settlement and Urban Development which has been allocated a low budget of P5.6 billlion in 2020. Compare this again to the P8 billion allocated to the Office of the President and you will know how greedy this president is for money that is not his.

If the government remains as irresponsible as it is now without even having any semblance of a pro-masses national development program for industry and agriculture, which will involve the direct participation of the Filipino masses in their organizations, the Philippines will be in the same rut as it is at present with its increase of wealth (GDP), mostly derived from credits or fictitious capital (hot money) in the finance market, particularly in the stock market, only benefitting 1% of the population. How could we expect for this Duterte government to launch a truly pro-masses relief program for all Filipino evacuees from calamities when it has even bungled up its so-called flagship program for a drug-free Philippines called Tokhang, which has become a total mess and failure due again to a lack of careful planning and strategy? Or is Tokhang just a big cover-up for something very sinister that favors Chinese drug lords? The masses, led by their organizations, must act now instead of relying on this neo-colonial, tyrannical and corrupt regime, masquerading as the true government of the Filipino people. #

The author is the former chairperson of the Development Studies Program of University of the Philippines at Manila. A Batangan, he is a grandson of General Miguel Malvar.

Fascism and capitalism and the US impending war with Iran

By Prof. Edberto M. Villegas, PhD

(The following article is the conclusion of a two-part opinion piece, the first discussing Trump’s fascistic tendencies and the ambitions of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to become a tin-pot-dictator. The author wrote “Global Finance Capital and the Philippine Financial System” and other political economy books and articles.)

If United States of America President Donald J. Trump were acquitted of his impeachment charges by the US Senate and wins in the election this coming November 2020, he will become more brazen in his fascistic tendencies like discriminating and persecuting non-whites, particularly immigrants, and strengthening the US military industrial complex or American monopoly capitalism supporting him.

In truth, fascism is the hidden face of monopoly capitalism, which aims to dominate the global economy, even at the expense of destroying the world because of its threat of war and the denial of climate change by Trump’s financial backers, a significant part of the world capitalist order. It must be noted that Hitler’s and Mussolini’s fascist parties were also funded by their respective countries’ monopoly capitalists. Like fascism, monopoly capitalism is driven by unbridled greed and ambition. The competitions of monopoly capitalists worldwide may bring down the whole of humanity into economic chaos and nuclear war.

Because of the principle of the balance of powers of the three branches of government, which is more ingrained in the US political system, Trump is having difficulty in attaining unilateral rule as were easily achieved by Hitler and Mussolini since German and Italian democracies were relatively younger than that of the US. If Trump were acquitted by the US Senate with its majority belonging to his Republican Party, he can become more ambitious in his nationalism like Hitler, who after being appointed Chancellor in 1933, forthwith suspended the civil rights provisions of the democratic Weimar constitution, allowing him to incarcerate and murder his opponents and start his conquest of Europe. Trump may also venture into a nuclear war, not primarily because of his belief in the superiority of the Nordic race, but more so to profit economically in his tie-up with the US military industrial complex. The US government grants contracts to American war manufacturers to produce weapons and other means of mass destruction for US imperialist inroads into other countries, The US military industrial complex also sells planes, ships and other war materiel, for instance, to Saudi Arabia and other US clients. Saudi Arabia is the leading buyer of jet planes and other war paraphernalia in the Middle East and is the arch-rival of Iran for political hegemony in this region.

The Iranian government is currently developing international ballistic missiles (IBM) in retaliation to Trump’s threat “to obliterate” their country. It is to be noted that Trump unilaterally decided to pull out the US from the denuclearization treaty with Iran which his predecessor President Barack Obama signed with other European countries. Trump also has imposed extensive economic sanctions on Iran, aiming to starve its population and agitate them to bring down their government, of course, with the goading of US moles in Iran for the Iranian people to hold mass rallies. The US has tried the same tactics in Venezuela, inciting its people to demonstrate, even importing some thugs from neighboring Chile, but to no avail as Venezuelan Socialist President Nicolas Maduro remains securely in power amidst all these machinations of the Trump government, which has also imposed extensive economic blockades on this country.

Trump has branded the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization and directed the US military to assassinate in the airport of Baghdad last Jan. 3 Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani who was known as the Number Two man in the Iranian government and considered a national hero by his people for his role in defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria. General Soleimani was killed with 10 other Iranian and Iraqi officials who were with him when their two cars were hit by a US airstrike. Trump with the elimination of Soleimani besides profiting with the US military industrial complex from a new war with Iran, wants to divert the American people’s attention from his pending impeachment trail and win popularity again what with his falling rate of approval as shown in latest US survey polls.

Iran’s oil reserves, which is number five in the world, is another tempting target for the US oil corporations, vital members and which fuel the war planes, tanks and ships of the US military industrial complex. Remember how US oil companies together with its partners from the UK, British Petroleum and France, Total took over the rich oilfields of Iraq and Libya after the US military succeeded in ousting President Saddam Hussein in 2004 and Chairman Moamar Khadafy in 2011 from these two countries, respectively.

With his action of ordering the execution of Soleimani, which was not even approved by the US Congress, Trump and his cabal in the US MIC have placed their countrymen in serious danger of an all-out war with Iran, which has vowed to revenge the death of its revered general. Trump even tries to justify the killing of General Soleimani as a pre-emptive strike to prevent an impending attack by Iran’s paramilitary forces in Iraq against US interest in this country. This explanation has been considered by many US public officials as another big lie of Trump as there was no evidence offered by US intelligence of such an imminent attack. It is similar to President Bush Jr.’s claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction which merited the US bombing of Baghdad in 2003 and later the hanging of Saddam Husssein. Bush Jr.’s rationalization for his war in Iraq was later proven to be false by the UN itself. Trump’s assertion that the execution of Soleimani will de-escalate the potential threat from Iran against US presence in the Middle East defies logic, to say the less.

With this mixture of American imperialist ambitions, the political rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia and US arms sale to the latter in the billions of dollars, the Middle East is a tinder-box for the escalation of the US-Iran conflict into a wider war which may also involve the US allies vis-a-vis Iran’s allies.

Conclusion

Rational Americans (as well as other peoples) should be gravely concerned with the rise to unilateral power of their white bigot of a president if he wins again in the coming election of November this year. Hitler had his “A thousand years rule of the Third Reich”, Mussolini his “the re-emergence of the Roman Empire” and Trump his “Make America Great Again”. Hitler and Mussolini met ignominious ends, the former committing suicide together with his top officials and his mistress in his Berlin bunker, and Mussolini’s dead body was hanged upside down with that of his mistress at Piazzela, Loreto, in Milan to be kicked and spat upon by an enraged and deceived people. Ordinary Americans and other freedom- loving individuals may take comfort in the thought of such inglorious fates of fascistic leaders and their ilk (in the case of the US, Trump and his cabal in the US military industrial complex) in history. #

The fascistic tendencies of Donald J. Trump and the impending US war with Iran

By Prof. Edberto M. Villegas, PhD

The spectre of fascism is haunting American society today. Just like Adolf Hitler (the Fuhrer) of Germany and Benito Mussolini (Il Duce) of Italy in the 1920’s-1930’s, US president Donald J. Trump is perceived as a strong leader among less- educated (no college education) working whites (40% of the US population) to whom he presents himself as their economic messiah. The ideology of fascism, developed by Italian intellectuals in the 1920’s, stokes up fears that other races are dominating the economy of one’s mother country, specially seen in Mussolini’s “Manifesto of Race”. It also particularly blames other races as the primary cause of crimes and violence in a society and of taking away jobs from the locals. These constitute Hitler’s and Mussolini’s rants as well as those of Trump in their various speeches. Trump’s placing in detention camps Latin Americans trying to enter the US Southern border, his separating immigrant children from parents, his decision (now pending in the US Supreme Court) to terminate DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood’s Arrivals), his campaign of hounding and jailing undocumented immigrants, even those who have lived in the US for years, before deporting them are reminiscences of Hilter’s pogrom of discriminating and incarcerating Jews. Trump also drums up fear of job insecurity among white Americans because of the influx of immigrants into the US and unfavorable trade agreements with other countries, particularly with China.

Rodrigo R. Duterte, a would-be dictator

At this point, allow me to digress on President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. Duterte is compared to Hitler by the militants not because he likewise believes that other races are controlling the Philippine economy and society as, on the other hand, he panders to China and allows US military and economic dominance of the country. Duterte is compared to Hitler as a fascist because he silences through force his critics, and even aims to change the Philippine constitution to favor foreign business and his cabal of political opportunists. Unlike Hitler, Mussolini and Trump, Duterte persecutes those who oppose foreign control of the Philippine economy, even assassinating some of them he labels as terrorists. He has no plan for the expansion of Filipino industrialization and in fact, he opens up the local market wider to imports, killing Filipino-owned businesses. He even jokes of turning the Philippines into a a province of China. Actually, Duterte is just one aspiring to become a tin-pot-dictator in the likes of the US-sponsored Fulgencio Batista of Cuba, who thrived on the drug and gambling business in Havana before he was disposed in a revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959, and the drug smuggler Manuel Noriega of Panama, who was ousted in 1989 by his very patron, the US, when it had no more use of him and he was becoming a liability.

Trump’s fascistic tendencies

But let us return to the emerging fascist dictatorship in the US and leave Duterte and his minions to the judgment and retribution of historical justice. Trump’s castigation of foreign domination of certain areas of the US economy, specially by China, through unfair trade agreements, is more hype than truth. In the case of Germany, immediately before the rise of Hitler to power in the 1930’s, its economic woes were very real. The German mark plunged in value to as low as one million mark to one US dollar and German factories were closing down with US and UK capital gobbling them up. The mark was even referred to as papiermark (paper mark) because it became practically useless. This economic crisis was primarily due to the very unfair provisions imposed on Germany by the Versailles Treaty of 1919 by the vengeful Allies after the defeat of the former in World War I.

Like Hitler and Mussolini, Trump is a racist, believing those with white skin and blue eyes are more intellectually superior to other races. In fact, he is not against immigrants per se, but immigrants with a different skin color, for he invites white Norwegians to come to the US. At one time, he even told four Afro-American congresswomen to go back to the “shit hole” where they originated, meaning Africa. These women are in fact American citizens, with only one of them a naturalized immigrant, having been born in Somalia, Africa. Trump called demonstrating white neo-nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan, both extreme US rightist groups. in Charlottesville, Viriginia, “very fine people” even after one of them killed a woman . Like his fascist predecessors, Trump loves pomp and grandeur, claiming he had the biggest inauguration crowd ever in US history (which was untrue), and at one time wanted to hold a grand military parade, complete with tanks and airplanes, in Washington, but balked at pushing it through because of severe criticisms. Trump like his predecessors demonizes the US left, exemplified in the movement supporting Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, both Democratic candidates vying to replace him in the US presidential election this coming November and both campaigning for more extensive universal health care than Obama care and free tuition for college education, which threatens corporate America, a great segment of which supports Trump.

The ongoing events in the US political arena are similar to the period before the rise to absolute power of Hitler and Mussolini. Trump like his two predecessors reiterates in rallies the entitlements of the Nordic race, specifically its male members, to social and economic privileges, even accusing Latin Americans and Middle Eastern immigrants as rapists, murderers and potential terrorists. He also constantly rails against the liberal free press and calls it as “enemy of the people” like Hitler. Trump’s adulation of strong man Putin of Russia is akin to Mussolini’s admiration of his fellow totalitarian leader, Hitler. Trump knows he owes Putin gratitude in the latter’s intervention, proven by US intelligence sources, in the 2016 election which catapulted the former television host to the US presidency.

Like Hitler and Mussolini, Trump is a populist leader, pumping up the primeval instincts of fear, pride and anger of his base, particularly among lower-class white Americans. Trump’s limited vocabulary like that of Hitler,replete with street language, appeals to the less-educated working whites. He easily connects with his crowd, inciting their emotions, with aggressive calls like “Lock her Up” and “Send them home”, which are echoed by his audience. These are akin to Hitler’s tirades against Jews as “vermins of the earth” and “killers of Jesus”, homosexuals as “freaks” and Russian communists as “subhumans”.He receives instant feedbacks from his listeners, repeating his slogans, unlike the sedate and intellectual orator Barrack Obama, who tries to appeal to reason rather than to passions. Trump is addicted to big crowds, often interrupting his responsibilities in the White House to rabble rouse his supporters.

Trump, also like Hitler and Mussolini, plays with the truth, creating what he calls “alternative facts”, which can dumbfound principled and good (politically naive?) people. To him what is true is what will serve his interests, and incessantly lies and insults his opponents, similar to Joseph Goebbels’s maxim (Goebbel was Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda) that lies can be believed by people as truths through repetitions (no different from capitalist advertisements) or propaganda. Trusting men of integrity and truthfulness were easily outwitted by Hitler. Remember how Hitler hoodwinked the gullible British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, when he was able to make the latter believe that he will not invade Poland because he signed the Munich Agreement, but which soon after he violated. Because of the breakdown of the Munich peace agreement, Chamberlain was replaced by the more politically astute, Winston Churchill. The lesson here is beware of treacherous peace-bearing incorrigible liars. #

(Tomorrow: Fascism and Capitalism and the US impending war with Iran)

Dr. Villegas authored “Global Finance Capital and the Philippine Financial System” and other political economy books and articles. He is a retired University of the Philippines and De La Salle University professor.

Trump commits multiple murder in line with US imperialist terrorism

By Jose Maria Sison, Chairperson Emeritus, International League of Peoples’ Struggle

By ordering the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and the Iranian and Iraqi officials accompanying him at the Baghdad airport, US President Trump has blatantly committed multiple murder as well as aggression against the sovereignty of Iraq and Iran in violation of international law as well as US law which prohibits such aggressive act without the prior declaration of war by authorization of the US Congress.

Trump himself has boastfully and arrogantly admitted the criminal act that he ordered the assassination of Soleimani and his Iranian and Iraqi companions in two cars. His crime of multiple murder is in line with the aggressive and terrorist character of US imperialism. As the No. 1 terrorist in world history and contemporary times, US imperialism has committed acts of aggression, destroying the lives and properties of millions of people, even without the formal declaration of war. Imperialist aggression is the worst kind of terrorism which the people suffer and abhor.

Those who support the terrorist act of Trump try to depict Soleimani as a terrorist. But in fact the latter is well known as a master strategist against terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State, Al Nusra and the Al Qaeda, which US imperialism has employed at one time or another. Soleimani and his Iranian and Iraqi companions are well known to have fought the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, starting from the time the US and Israel had just created and deployed the Islamic State as a weapon for invading Iraq, Iran and Syria.

In committing his criminal act, Trump is short-sightedly motivated by his selfish desire to overcome his current impeachment and to win the next presidential elections through warmongering and arousing the jingoistic sentiments that favor US imperialism. But the criminal act has serious consequences. The oppressed peoples and self-respecting countries in the Middle East are justly outraged, aroused and mobilized to fight against US imperialism. So are the people of the world, including the American people, who are against the aggressive and terrorist acts of US imperialism.

In accordance with its own original intent, US imperialism will commit further terrorist acts of aggression as in the Middle East. It will continue to lose trillions of dollars in military expenditures without being able to expand stable economic territory. The US public debt will increase at an accelerated rate even as the US military industrial complex profits. But in the Middle East, the combination of Iran, Iraq, Syria and other countries will further isolate the US and will avail of the support of China and Russia. Thanks to Trump’s hyperterrorism, the strategic decline and downfall of US imperialism is accelerating.#

A new hope: The issues and struggles of 2019

By Renato Reyes Jr.

The year 2019 has got to be one of the most difficult 12 months for the Filipino people. We witnessed an unprecedented escalation of political repression on various fronts. The attacks were vicious and relentless and tested our collective resolve to fight back. The backward economy experienced new challenges with the continuing neo-liberal policies this regime chose to uphold. Under attack this year were human rights, national sovereignty, democracy and the rule of law. Through it all, the struggling Filipino people stood their ground, made significant advances, pushed back against tyranny and scored victories for the people.

Push-back against fascist attacks

The year 2019 saw the worst attacks on human rights including the killings and mass arrests in Negros, the militarization of Eastern Visayas, continuing Martial Law in Mindanao, trumped-up charges and arrests in Manila, extrajudicial killings in the drug war, red-tagging and attacks on academic freedom, the right to organize and freedom of expression. The National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict repeatedly reared its ugly head and led the crackdown on dissent in the name of “counter-insurgency”. The “whole of nation approach”, which called for the militarization and weaponization of the civilian bureaucracy in the service of counter-insurgency.

The call “Defend Negros” reverberated as human rights defenders showed solidarity with the people of Negros facing extrajudicial killings, mass arrests, harassment and militarization. The courageous people of Negros are standing up to tyranny thanks in part to the nationwide and international solidarity that came after the series of violent attacks in the island. There remain many detained on trumped-up charges and justice remains elusive for those killed like the Sagay 9, Atty, Ben Ramos, Toto Patigas and Atty. Anthony Trinidad, among many others.

The October 31 raid on legal offices of activist groups in Negros and the arrest of as many as 51 individuals including minors, was one of the worst incidents of wholesale political repression against activists in the country in recent history. Majority of those arrested were eventually released for lack of probable cause or after posting bail. There are many however who remain incarcerated because of trumped-up charges and planted evidence. At around the same time in Manila, five activists were arrested based on warrants issued by the same QC judge that issued the Negros search warrants.

In the face of these escalating attacks, the people pushed back, waged mass actions, called nationwide attention to the abuses, built alliances, and amplified the call to defend human rights. The lies of state forces were eventually exposed, including the manufacture of spurious search warrants used to raid offices of legal activists. A solidarity mission was held and the groups arrived in time for the release of many of the arrested individuals.

The September 21 commemoration of Marcos’ Martial Law and the December 10 International Human Rights Day mobilizations bannered the calls against tyranny and dictatorship. Thousands participated nationwide in protest of the worsening human rights situation under the fascist Duterte regime.

The struggle for justice for all human rights victims continues in 2020.

Bato, bato who?

In August, neophyte Senator Bato dela Rosa attempted to conduct his own McCarthyist witch-hunt of youth activists in several universities, citing the alleged “missing of minors” who were recruited to the NPA. Such claims however were belied as there were no “missing minors”. The purpose of the hearing was to actually attack academic freedom and activism in schools by delegitimizing dissent. The efforts of Bato were soon exposed and the students fought back by holding protests and walk-outs across the country.

One week after his tirades on student activists, Bato would find himself at the crosshairs of a senate probe on the early releases of high-profile inmates convicted of heinous crimes. Bato used to be Bucor director and under his watch, anomalous GCTA releases took place.

Atin ang Pinas!

Another banner issue for 2019 was the West Philippine Sea. The campaign to defend our sovereign rights in our Exclusive Economic Zone and protest the puppetry of the regime united a broad range of patriotic forces. The protests against China’s violation of our sovereign rights was sustained: April 9, June 12, the days after the sinking of the MV Gem-Ver, July 12 anniversary of the Hague ruling, and the biggest anti-China protest on the occasion of Duterte’s State of the Nation Address. The pressure from the public forced Duterte to address the issue of the China and the West Philippine Sea during his SONA.

Labor unrest

This year saw several workers’ strikes take place, with almost all being brutally attacked by private goons and state forces. Notable workers’s struggles include the workers of SUMIFRU, Super 8, PEPMACO, NutriAsia in Cabuyao, Laguna, Nissin-Monde and Regent Foods. Most common issues are contractualization, the right to unionize, collective bargaining, and poor working conditions.

Trade union repression has worsened this year with the frequent use of police forces to break up picket lines and arrest striking workers. Some of the worst violations happened with the NutriaAsia workers whose strike was violently attacked and leaders arrested and detained for several months. The same violence was imposed on the striking workers of Regent Foods in Pasig, with union leaders and supporters also arrested. The timely intervention of Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto helped secure the release of the detained workers.

The attacks on striking workers spurred a boycott of products of the companies suppressing workers’ rights. The boycott of PEPMACO, NutriAsia and Regent Food products remain in force to this day.

Electoral struggle

It was a difficult year for the electoral struggle as progressive partylist groups and candidates faced fascist attacks from the entire state machinery. The regime also used considerable resources at is disposal to ensure the election of their candidates. Pera, pananakot at panlilinlang ang ginamit para mailuklok ang mga kandidato ng administrasyon at sagkaan ang oposisyon. Despite the tremendous odds, partylist group Bayan Muna achieved three seats in Congress and placed second in the partylist race. ACT, Gabriela Women’s Parety and Kabataan got one seat each. Anakpawis will definitely do better in the next elections even as attacks continue against the peasant sector.

On May 17, more than a thousand marched to the PICC to protest election fraud under the Duterte regime.

Rice crisis

This year was bleak for millions of Filipino rice farmers reeling from the effects of the rice liberalization and the massive importation of rice. The Philippines gained the distinction as the biggest rice importer in the world as palay prices dipped to P9 per kilo in some parts of the country. More than 50,000 farmers signed a petition for the repeal of the Rice Tariffication Law and public outrage over the state of agriculture was clearly felt. This forced Duterte to order government to purchase more palay from local producers. However, the regime stopped short of actually halting rice importation and repealing the law.

Mass transport crisis

Commuters continued to suffer in 2109 with what Bayan has described as a “mass transport crisis”. Trains continued to break down, a jeepney phaseout was being pushed, and the quality of life of Metro Manila workers and students continued to deteriorate due to the long commute. Not even the commute stunt of Presidential Spokesman Sal Panelo could cover up the reality that mass transport in the country is utterly lacking and problematic. The regime of privatization has failed to address the transportation needs of the public and the problems are expected to continue in 2020.

GCTA and ninja cops

The PNP faced its worst crisis yet with the issue of the “ninja cops”, an offshoot of the probe into the Good Conduct Time Allowance. The supposed release of heinous crime convicts such as Mayor Antonio Sanchez led to the conduct of a senate probe into anomalies in the GCTA. Even Sen. Bato, a former Bucor chief, found himself in the hot seat for the releases under his watch, Like many things in the corrupt bureaucracy, the system could be bought. In the course of the investigation, the issue of “ninja cops”was raised by former CIDG chief and now Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong. This led to a new round of investigations that centered on no less than PNP chief Oscar Albayalde. The PNP Chief was implicated in protecting his personnel who were involved in the recycling of illegal drugs. Albayalde was allowed to resign, though disgraced and without fanfare. Until now, Duterte has not appointed a PNP chief. He has ordered DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano to “handle” the PNP until 2022.

The entire drug war has been exposed as a sham. So many families cry out for justice for the thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings brought about by the brutal drug war.

Water crisis and the crisis of privatization

March 7 marked the start of the water crisis in Metro Manila as Manila Water customers suddenly found themselves without water. Long lines were formed in Mandaluyong, Pasig and San Juan as people waited for water supply in the streets. Maynilad will also follow suit with its service interruptions. Water services, which had been privatized since 1997, again failed the the consumers. The private water concessionaires incurred widespread public anger because of their failure to prepare for the El Nino and provide new water sources to keep up with their expansion. Their proposed water rate hike was widely opposed. Eventually, their contracts were scrutinized and exposed as having been onerous and grossly disadvantageous to the public. The statements from Malacanang and the DOJ were a vindication of the Left’s position on water privatization and the onerous contracts entered into by the Ramos regime and extended by the Arroyo regime. Even Duterte grudgingly acknowledged this on December 3, when he discussed the concession agreements: “Itong Left inunahan tayo. Kana si [Sal?] narinig mo si ano? Inunahan — nakaamoy ang mga ulol and they think that they are the savior of the…”

The water service interruptions continue, and are expected to be the “new normal” possibly beyond summer 2020. The public awaits the outcome of the contract reviews. It is time for government to take back water services, not give it to another crony of the regime. This should be on our campaign agenda next year.

The end of Martial Law in Mindanao

After more than two years, Martial Law in Mindanao will end midnight of December 31. The period covered by Martial Law saw many human rights violations and abuses by state security forces. This includes extrajudicial killings of peasants and indigenous peoples, the militarization of communities, closure of Lumad schools, mass arrests and the filing of trumped up charges. Mindanao has borne the brunt of the counter-insurgency operations of the regime. Their heroic resistance continues.

A recent survey indicated that 65% of those polled wanted Martial Law to end this year.

Peace talks ituloy!

A most welcome development at the end of 2019 was the revival of peace efforts between the GRP and the NDFP. Backchannel talks were held, a 15-day reciprocal ceasefire was put in place and confidence-building measures were sought. The peace talks stand to benefit the Filipino people through the forging of substantive agreements that address the root causes of the armed conflict. It also has the effect of countering the fascist attacks of the regime against the people. The news of the revival of the peace talks was welcomed by many, especially peace advocates. Some 130 lawmakers have signed a resolution supporting the peace talks. Despite efforts of peace spoilers and war hawks intent on sabotaging the peace talks, there appears to be positive advances with the reconstitution of the GRP peace panel and the inclusion of Executive Secretary Bingbong Medialdea in the panel.

We need to press for the release of all political prisoners, including NDF peace consultants who will participate in the peace talks.

The peace spoilers are bent on sowing intrigues to sabotage the talks. They also want to banner their so-called achievements in “localized peace talks”. Unfortunately for them, their latest fakery in the supposed “mass surrender” of NPA’s in Masbate was quickly exposed as a sham. The resumption of the peace talks is proof of the failure of the localized talks and the “whole of nation approach”.

A new hope

In the immortal words of Rogue One’s Jyn Erso we subscribe: “Rebellions are built on hope”. The resistance to tyranny and oppression is fueled by the hope that a better world, a more just and human society, is indeed possible. Our hope is likewise fueled by the resilience and tirelessness of the oppressed masses. Time and again, they who are most oppressed and downtrodden have taught us the meaning of courage.

We welcome the new year with a new hope and a firm resolve to fight for our people and for a better future. #

The author is the secretary general of the New Patriotic Alliance/Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

Hospital of Our Hope, System of Our Despair

by Gene Nisperos, MD

The Philippine General Hospital is the face of our perpetually neglected public healthcare system. As the biggest tertiary training hospital in the country, it provides specialized and very specialized services and training. It is also the end referral hospital of other public hospitals. Pero ito din ang Ospital ng Bayan na sadyang pinabayaan.

The ever-increasing number of patients in PGH reflects the country’s worsening social conditions. The poor’s limited access to basic services, aggravated by their absent economic power and the prohibitive costs of healthcare, all lead them to this single health institution.

Thus, we need to take a close, hard look at the state of PGH and its patients.

A casual stroll from the PGH Out-Patient Department (OPD) to the wards can break your heart.

Patients. Families. All are trying their best to get a measure of the health services they need, never mind deserve. Some are eating their baon along the sidewalk. Others are desperately trying to make their patients more comfortable under the sweltering heat and crowd. Many have been waiting in line since 3-4am just to get in.

A walk through the Emergency Room (ER) can break your spirit.

Everywhere, quietly, patients find small consolation in cold metal beds, in stretchers, in wheelchairs, or even in monobloc chairs. They fill up any unpeopled space that they can find and comfort is a luxury that they will readily forego if only to get seen and treated.

And all of them want to be seen, need to be seen. Many have travelled long distances hoping to be treated for their various infirmities. But the hospital is always shorthanded. The 4000-strong health personnel are almost always never enough for the deluge of patients that come daily.

The ER, currently under renovation, only has a 25-bed capacity. But its daily census is easily north of 150. In the last three years, PGH’s patient census has steadily increased from 586,000 to 647,000 per year.

There are patients who should be in the intensive care unit (ICU) but are still in the wards. There are patients who should be in the wards but are still in the ER. There are patients in “ectopic beds”, or beds in departments other than that where the patient should be confined in.

There is just not enough beds or space. There is just not enough health personnel.

Yes, even the best that PGH can provide remains too little. And everyone can do with much more.

Yet in spite of these, for 2020, Congress deemed it fit to cut the PGH budget rather than increase it. Apparently, for our honourable legislators, the less than P3 billion per year allocation is enough and there are more pressing matters to fund, like the P100 million pork barrel they will each get.

To provide its patients with the barest minimum, PGH needs about P5 billion per year. So why give the hospital much less than what it needs to operate?

Limited funds nga daw kasi.

Currently, around two-thirds of PGH’s budget goes to pay for its personnel, whose numbers cannot match those of the patients, even with medical and health sciences students taking up the cudgels.

Because of insufficient budget, the hospital cannot hire the additional health human resources it needs. It cannot even regularize the contractual employees it has. Worse, it is looking to further subcontract the work being done by institutional/utility workers, the “manongs” who brings patients around the hospital for their labs, x-rays, and what not.

About 25% of PGH’s budget goes to its operations, which directly benefit its patients. Even then, supplies and meds are often lacking so patients need to buy these outside.

Some laboratory exams are unavailable so these have to be done outside as well. Basic equipment, like respirators, have also been subcontracted to private firms and their use have to be paid for by patients.

All of these amount to out-of-pocket expenses that are catastrophic for an already impoverished patient.

To be fair, the PGH Administration exerts effort to augment the hospital’s funds. Donations from private individuals and/or corporations help stretch the meager resources. But at the end of the day, patients and health personnel alike, including students, shell out money to cover for what the hospital lacks.

Either that or they become mute witnesses to the consequences of unmet health needs: morbidity if not death.

PGH supporters calling for a higher budget for the country’s most important teaching hospital.

When government refuses to give enough funds, everyone suffers. Because in PGH, the need will always be much greater than what can be given. Sadly, this is being done to almost all public hospitals: they get less than half of the budget they need but are expected to operate fully, with VERY LITTLE support.

When health officials grow tired of asking enough to provide for what patients deserve, what is given is not even enough to provide for what patients need. When health officials console themselves by asking just enough to provide for what patients need, what is given is barely enough, so that patients expect even less.

This is government policy and it must be changed. THIS is the rotten system that refuses to see healthcare as a public good.

It is therefore right and fair to demand for a bigger budget for health and for PGH.

Every year, PGH should get P10 billion to give its patients the care THEY DESERVE. The hospital should not have to rely on the kind heart of philanthropists or on corporate social responsibility just to keep itself financially afloat. The hospital should NOT EXACT any more from the pockets of its patients and its staff.

The amount also enables PGH to hire and regularize enough hospital personnel to meet the ever-increasing demands of healthcare. The money affords the hospital enough to provide essential supplies and medicine, and ensures that the laboratory and diagnostic equipment are working.

If PGH is given the budget that it deserves, then it can fulfill its most important role: enable the poor and destitute to exercise, and maybe even experience, their right to health. #