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AFP bombing spree in Mindanao disobeys Duterte’s Covid-19 ceasefire order, Reds report

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is disobeying President Rodrigo Duterte’s ceasefire order, undertaking aerial bombing, cannon firing, and other military operations amid the corona virus disease (Covid-19) emergency, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) reported.

In a statement, the CPP said that based on New People’s Army (NPA) field reports, the AFP  is on a bombing spree and continues to carry out focused military offensives in the Bukidnon-Davao border area in disregard of the ceasefires declared by the Duterte government.

“Philippine Air Force (PAF) units under the AFP’s 4th Infantry Division used an FA-50 fighter jet to indiscriminately drop five 500-pound bombs near two Lumad communities in Barangay Mandahikan, Cabanglasan (Bukidnon province) on March 27,” the CPP said in a statement.

According to the CPP, the fighter jet dropped three bombs around 9 a.m. and two more at 2 p.m, traumatizing children and other community residents.

The bombing damaged the primary source of food and livelihood of the Lumad in the area, the group added.

On March 29, the AFP, using attack helicopters, fired at least 10 rockets in the same barangay at around noontime.

Rounds were also reportedly fired from artillery cannons installed at an adjacent barangay in Loreto, Davao del Norte province.

A Cessna surveillance aircraft flew overhead the whole day after the airstrike, the CPP said.

The military also deployed additional soldiers at Sitio Miyaray to conduct combat operations while two trooper units and three armored fighting vehicles were also deployed at Sitio Tapayanon, Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte, the CPP reported.

The bombings and troop deployments followed a fire fight resulting from an operation by the AFP’s 60th and 56th Infantry Battalions against the NPA in the area last March 24.

“The military made it appear that the attack was staged by the NPA although it was clear that they were carrying out offensive combat operations as evidenced by the fact that they have prepositioned artillery units to back up their ground troops,” the CPP said.

The underground group also said that the military raided an NPA encampment in Little Baguio, San Fernando, Bukidnon on March 29 at 2 a.m.

“Residents reported that military troops continue to operate in Barangays Kibongcog and Poblacion, San Fernando; Barangay Concepcion, Valencia; Santa Filomena, Quezon; Barangays Bulonay and Kalabugao, Impasug-ong; Barangays Busdi, Caburacanan, Manalog, Saint Peter and Zamboanguita, Malaybalay City; and Barangay Poblacion, Cabanglasan,” the CPP said.

The AFP also placed two artillery cannons in Sitio Nursery, Barangay Concepcion and another in Sitio Salaysay in Barangay Santa Filomena and have subjected the area to continuous aerial surveillance since the last week of March, reported the CPP.

Philippine Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Gilbert I. Gapay however has only issued congratulatory messages to his troops engaged in fire fights against the NPA in Zamboanga Sibugay and Quezon provinces, admitting however that the fire fight in Mulanay town happened after his troops responded to reports that NPA rebels were in the area.

In the Zamboanga Sibugay encounter, Gapay said his troops were merely in the vicinity as part of the Philippine Army’s community visitation for Covid-19 information awareness.

The CPP, however, said that the military had been using the Covid-19 pandemic emergency to camouflage its intensified counter-insurgency operations in contempt of the United Nations plea to a global truce and in direct contravention of Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire order effective March 19 to April 13. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Police harass Sitio San Roque community kitchens

Residents of Sitio San Roque cannot seem to catch a break after the police harassed the community kitchen they have been operating for three days.

In an urgent alert, the group Save San Roque said about 15 Quezon City Police District officers arrived at two areas in their community to tear down placards asking the government for more help.

“Despite the peaceful volunteerism at our community kitchen, about 15 police officers descended upon us to tear down our placards asking for help,” the group said on its Facebook page.

QCPD officers descend on Sitio San Roque anew to tear down placards asking government for more help. (Save San Roque photo)

Save San Roque said the police arrived at around 10 o’clock in the morning and left after an hour.

The police action was upon the directive of the QCPD Station 2 commander, the group said.

The Philippine National Police-National Capital Region Command website identifies Lt. Colonel Rodrigo Soriano as Station 2 commander.

Save San Roque had been operating community kitchens after the community started receiving relief donations from private individuals following the arrest of 21 residents accused by the police and government officials, including President Rodrigo Duterte, of holding a rally last April 1.

It turned out that the residents only massed up along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue upon hearing that local and national government officials were about to hand out relief items.

Despite Quezon City mayor Joy Belmonte’s request to the QCPD not to press charges, the Department of Interior and Local Government announced it will push ahead in filing charges against those arrested.

QCPD officers tearing down placards asking government for more help. (Save San Roque photo)

In a surprise address later that evening, Duterte threatened to kill participants of protest actions in direct reference to those arrested.

The arrests and Duterte’s threats have resulted in an outpouring of help to the beleaguered residents, with private individuals offering to pay the bail for those arrested.

Groups have also started to give food packs to the residents, allowing Save San Roque and the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap to operate two community kitchens in the area.

The Sitio San Roque incident inspired #OustDuterteNow tweets on social media that trended for days since the incident. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Life doubly harder in Marawi shelters as coronavirus grounds aid groups

Marawi residents find it hard to follow precautions against the novel coronavirus disease when relief goods are limited and water trucks are reducing trips. Local authorities say they do not have enough resources to feed the people for an extended period. They need outside help.

BY CARMELA FONBUENA/PCIJ

RESIDENTS trooped to the small mosque at Area 1 Temporary Shelter in Marawi City’s Sagonsongan village for the Friday prayers on March 27. They were aware they were violating instructions from the barangay chairman to observe physical distancing, a precaution against the highly contagious novel coronavirus disease that has killed at least three fellow Maranaos.

“They prayed side by side, but they were all wearing masks,” said Saipoding Mariga Mangotara, one of about 17,000 Marawi residents still living in shelters three years after the siege that flattened the city center and destroyed their homes.

The mosque-goers had a plea to Allah. They prayed for the virus to go away so that quarantine measures, which had made life even more difficult, would end.

The disease has killed over 50,000 and infected more than a million people around the world by the first week of April. The Philippines confirmed more than a hundred deaths and over 3,000 infections during the same period, but experts said the country’s poor testing rate means there are thousands more undetected cases.

Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra ordered all village chiefs to strictly impose “enhanced community quarantine” measures on March 19, grounding Mangotara and his neighbors inside their 24-square-meter homes.

Quarantine measures such as military and police checkpoints have hurt people’s livelihoods, including those of about 1,500 tricycle drivers and an undetermined number of “pedicab traders” who earned their living going around barangays to sell fish and vegetables.

They’re no longer allowed to go outside the shelters to earn money to buy food. Those who do have money have found it difficult to pass through checkpoints to reach the markets. There are sari-sari stores, but residents are afraid the owners will soon shut them down to keep the supply for their own families.

“We’re like chickens in a coop. We can’t get out. It’s hard because we’re running out of food. We don’t have income. We can’t buy,” said Mangotara.

Residents at the shelter got food packs from the local government, but a few kilos of rice and canned goods would last only a few days. Private donations, which have helped them get by since their displacement in 2017, have arrived in trickles since the quarantine. Even feeding programs have stopped because of crowding.

Saipoding Mariga Mangotara and wife Geraldine inside their home at Area 1 temporary shelter in Marawi City’s Sagonsongan village. File photo: Carmela Fonbuena

No more fieldwork

The quarantine has grounded most, if not all, aid and development groups operating in Marawi City, even if they’re exempted from the lockdown measures along with health workers and other emergency front liners. Task Force Bangon Marawi field office manager Felix Castro Jr., who oversees activities in the shelters, said there were no requests from the usual groups and foundations to visit the shelters lately.

Marawi residents have been asking for assistance but it’s hard for everyone to move, said Charlito Manlupig, chairman of Balay Mindanaw Foundation, an organization helping communities in Marawi and other parts of Mindanao.

“There’s zero movement among the different aid groups, as far as I know. Almost all partner international agencies have pulled out. No one is allowed to do field work,” Manlupig said.  

It’s a challenge for many temporary shelters, evacuation sites, and vulnerable communities throughout the Philippines that rely on aid groups and foundations.

“I can confirm that though not ended, most of our field activities have been significantly reduced due to the pandemic,” said Allison Lopez, spokesperson for the local chapter of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Lopez said the ICRC felt it was important to take precautionary measures to make sure its staff would not inadvertently bring the virus to vulnerable communities.

That meant postponing projects such as cash-for-work programs in Lanao del Sur and Zamboanga del Sur, as well as the distribution of food and household items to displaced people in Agusan del Sur. “These three projects alone cover 1,000 people,” said Lopez.

It’s the same at Oxfam Philippines. Humanitarian manager Rhoda Avila said they, too, have suspended field work for two weeks since the lockdown.

Oxfam was able to install handwashing facilities in some areas before the lockdown, but was forced to postpone a project to install water pump facilities in a conflict community in Maguindanao.

Families in transitory shelters in Marawi City put up sari-sari stores to augment their income.
File photo: Carmela Fonbuena

Scared of disease and hunger

Authorities have vowed to protect the Marawi shelters in case of a wider outbreak. Asnin Pendatun, cabinet secretary of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, said they were closely watching Lanao del Sur, where Marawi City is located, because it had the most number of COVID-19 infections.

All six cases in the region as of March 31 were residents of Marawi City and Lanao del Sur. Three elderly cases have died, two were admitted to the Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi, and one was quarantined at home.

This graphics is posted the Facebook page of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Interagency Task Force on COVID-19.

But authorities were still tracking attendees of a religious gathering in Malaysia from Feb. 27 to March 1, which was linked to clusters of coronavirus cases in Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei, Pendatun said. There were at least 10 attendees from Lanao del Sur.

Zia Alonto Adiong, Bangsamoro parliament member and spokesperson for the Lanao del Sur COVID-19 task force, said they were wary of undetected cases in the province. “The scarcity of test kits is a problem. We don’t know the exact number of cases, who they are, and where they are. We don’t have the data. It definitely affects the degree of response of the local government units,” he said.

Adiong was worried about asymptomatic cases, too. “They might look healthy but they are carriers of the disease. There has to be mass testing,” he said.

Displaced residents are equally scared.

In March, occupants of Bahay Pag-asa shelters in Buadi Itowa village became agitated. A resident had just returned from Metro Manila – the epicenter of coronavirus outbreak in the country – and developed a fever.

People knew she had been to Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan, the site of the first known cases of local transmission, and feared she had brought the virus to their community. Panicked residents sent her to Amai Pakpak Medical Center. She later tested negative.

“We were really scared. We thought she caught the disease. There was a misunderstanding. We were all relieved to learn she had tested negative,” said Johanna Abdelfattah, a resident who also serves as community organizer for Balay Mindanaw Foundation.

Hunger is a force much stronger than the virus, however. Two weeks into the quarantine, fears of getting infected were overshadowed by a problem literally closer to the gut – how to get food on the table.

Some have turned fatalistic. “People here say we will die when Allah says it’s our time to die,” said Mangotara.

LGU’s burden

To make the quarantine work, it’s important to guarantee residents they will get food, water, medicines and other necessities, Balay Mindanaw area manager Charmaine Mae Dagapioso Baconga said.

“The people are scared. The people are bored. It’s hard to control their movements. Some people are complaining because it’s really been hard. They’re afraid to get the disease, but they also worry about their livelihood,” said Baconga.

Mayor Gandamra said the city would not be able to feed its people for an extended period without outside help.

“Definitely, we cannot sustain the distribution of food packs if coronavirus drags on and the quarantine measures are extended. We are not the same as the cities in Metro Manila. We are not like Quezon City that has billions of pesos in income,” he said.

Transitional Shelter Sites, as of April 2, 2020

For a population of about 200,000 people, Marawi City only has P2.5 million in its calamity fund each month, which translates to about P870,000 in emergency funds it can spend for coronavirus response. “We’ve been spending way beyond [our budget]. Fortunately, we still have savings,” Gandamra said.

The Bangsamoro regional government has sent food packs to indigents and persons under investigation (PUIs) and persons under monitoring (PUMs) for the disease, hoping to keep them in their homes. “We are coordinating with the province to be able to deliver food packs in batches,” said Pendatun.

As for the national government, the Department of Budget and Management said on April 2 that P100 billion had been released for the distribution of cash aid to poor families all over the country.

Gandamra said city officials were still checking the guidelines to see if residents in the shelters were qualified, as not all of them were beneficiaries of cash transfers under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

Gandamra and Adiong were counting on private aid groups to find a way to continue assistance to displaced residents of Marawi.

Rice, water supply, medicines

The mayor hopes donors prioritize rice, as fears of a shortage have made it difficult to stockpile on the staple.

“There are provinces that do not want other local government units to buy from them. They are keeping their supply for their own people. We understand they’re protecting themselves, but there will be areas that will not have rice if the situation gets worse,” Gandamra said.

Water supply was always a problem, but coronavirus has made it worse. Water trucks that used to fill up their tanks were reducing trips lately, making it harder for residents to follow hygiene rules and handwashing instructions, Mangotara and Abdelfattah said.

Castro said there was a temporary disruption because the Marawi task force had to issue clearances to let truck drivers pass through checkpoints in Iligan, where many of them lived. He said water distribution would continue, but admitted that supply was not always enough.

There are water pumps in Sagonsongan and Bahay Pag-asa, but Abdelfattah said the queues were often long and supply was unreliable. The pumps broke down frequently because of overuse, she said.

While rains have allowed residents to collect water, they are also a cause of illnesses. “The sun is out one minute, then it rains the next. It’s hot, then cold. People have asked for medicines at the first sign of colds or fever because they’re afraid it might be coronavirus. The barangay has run out of supply,” said Abdelfattah.

Now that dry season has arrived, water pumps are badly needed as there are no rains to augment water supply. Balay Mindanao was unable to transport water pump facilities for communal gardens at Bahay Pag-asa because of the suspension of domestic air travel, Abdelfattah said.

Abdelfattah knew her neighbors envied her because she had a job at the foundation. “I tell them I will not hesitate if it’s in my power to make their lives better. But I also have to be careful with what I say to them because I cannot give them false hopes. I can only do so much right now,” she said.

Three years since the siege, displaced Marawi residents were still struggling to rise again. Coronavirus is poised to set back gains they have made.

“Coronavirus has made our lives doubly harder… I hope none of us will get it. I cannot imagine what’s going to happen to us.”

= = = = = = =
 
Carmela Fonbuena is a freelance journalist based in Manila. Follow her on Twitter (@carmelafonbuena) or email her at elafonbuena@gmail.com for comments.
 — PCIJ

Rights groups decry harassment of campus journalists

Free expression groups and advocates are outraged at village officials and public school teachers in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija who forced a campus journalist into issuing a public apology over his criticism of the Rodrigo Duterte government’s handling of the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

Arts and media alliance Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI) said the officials and teachers “deserve nothing but our (LODI) contempt and scorn” for being “bad examples to the youth” when they forced University of the East Dawn editor in chief Joshua Molo into issuing a public apology over his online criticisms of the president and the government.

 “In their attempt to silence Joshua, they abused their positions of influence in the community and merely helped cover up the negligent and inept who Joshua wished to expose,” LODI said in a statement.

Molo caught the ire of Barangay San Fernando Sur officials and his former high school teachers when he questioned the Duterte administration’s “inaction” in posts on his Facebook wall. The post has since been taken down.

Molo’s posts piqued three of his former teachers at Cabiao National High School who professed their unquestioning support of the president.

LODI identified Molo’s former teachers as Jun Ainne Francisco, Rochelle Galang, Wilma Manalo, Mel Garcia, Delmar Miranda, Jonifel Ventura, and Rogelio Dela Cruz. The barangay officials are unidentified.

That Molo was eventually “forced” to issue a public apology and take down his posts have earned the ire of free expression and rights groups and advocates.

Violation to free expression

In an alert, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Redwire, an independent publication run by students of UE-Manila first broke the news and quoted friends who were in contact with the campus journalist as saying that the barangay officials threatened to file a libel case against Molo and have him picked up by police if he refused to apologize.

“A video posted on the UE Dawn editor’s social media account Sunday afternoon, April 5, showed him (Molo) making the ‘apology,’ taking his cue from persons outside the frame of the image to begin reading the message he had prepared on his phone, a possible indication he was under duress at the time,” the NUJP said.

Before removing the video, the campus journalist posted a comment saying a former teacher had asked him to take it down, the group added.

LODI said the Molo’s criticisms of the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic are “non-crimes” and that he was right in pointing out the slow delivery of relief items for the citizens placed under quarantine.

Molo’s student publication, the UE Dawn, also condemned “in the strongest possible terms” actions against its editor, adding “preventing someone from expressing his or her opinion on matters such as grievances against the government is an act of oppression.”

Alumni of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), the national alliance of student publications that count the UE Dawn as its member, expressed full support to Molo and condemned “the cowardly acts of harassment against him.”

 “The coronavirus pandemic is no excuse to deny anyone, including students, the right to air grievances against government and to hold government accountable for its ineptitude and neglect. The limits on physical movement render free public debate online all the more important. Students have every right to participate in the debate,” the CEGP alumni said.

In a statement, the group asked Molo’s teachers to reconsider their plans to file charges against the campus journalist.

“[They should]…allow Joshua to freely speak his mind, and to instead to help him ventilate the valid complaints he is raising regarding the Duterte administration’s response to the pandemic. Teachers should be the last ones to discourage critical and independent thinking among students. Neither should they encourage blind, unthinking obedience to authority,” the CEGP alumni said.

Human rights group Karapatan for its part said, “We are alarmed on this incident as it is a case of curtailment of the right to free expression. Karapatan would like to remind authorities that the right to free speech is protected by the Philippine Constitution and international human rights instruments. Anyone who wishes to express dismay over government’s actions should never be threatened and penalized.”

Philippines Graphic editor in chief Joel Pablo Salud also publicly criticized Molo’s former teachers, asking “What sort of teachers would take the constitutionally-assured exercise of free speech against this university student editor? These are former teachers in high school; the young man is now in college,” he said.

“Is this the kind of system these teachers are propagating–coercion, intimidation, harassment of those who will exercise their right to free speech? To make matters more disturbing, these teachers were allegedly his former Campus Journalism instructors in high school,” Salud added.

Journalist Inday Espina-Varona said the barangay officials were wrong in coercing submission from Molo on issues way beyond the specific complaint.

“Threatening Molo with arrest on grounds of anti-government sentiment is a violation of his constitutional right to free expression,” Espina-Varona said,

 ‘Acting like a dictator’

In the same statement, the CEGP also condemned Cebu governor Gwendolyn Garcia’s threat against Today’s Carolinian (TC), student publication of the University of San Carlos in Cebu, that published an editorial critical of the local executive.

“She [Garcia] is not exempt from the requirement of accountability of public officers, and she has no legal authority to limit what can or cannot be said, or what can be asked or commented on,” the article reads.

The editorial entitled “A governor is not above the Constitution” was a criticism of Garcia’s announcement to form a unit to track down people with critical online posts.

Garcia responded with an “invitation” to TC editor in chief Berns Mitra to “beam some light into your clearly uninformed mind that has hastily jumped to an erroneous conclusion.”

The former officers of the CEGP however said Garcia should simply answer the questions and concerns raised by Cebu campus journalists.

“The pandemic is not a license for Garcia to act like a little dictator. She remains a public servant required by law to be accountable at all times to the people,” they said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Filipino seafarer dies of Covid-19 in San Francisco, groups worry about hundreds on board cruise ship

A Filipino seafarer has reportedly died in a San Franciso hospital due to the dreaded corona virus disease, a group of Filipino-Americans in the Californian city reported.

According to the Filipino Community Center (FCC) based in the said city, the seafarer contracted the virus on board the Grand Princess Cruise Ship that has been docked at the San Francisco Cruise Terminal since the early part of March.

The FCC learned of the unnamed sailor’s demise Saturday morning.

Fox 2 KTVU confirmed the crew member’s death, quoting Grand Princes spokesperson Negin Kamali saying: “All of us at Princess Cruises are deeply saddened to report that one of our team members who was working on Grand Princess passed away, from complications related to Covid-19. Our hearts go out to his family, friends, team members and all who are impacted by this loss. All of us at Princess Cruises offer our sincere condolences.”

Another Filipino crew member of the ship has tested positive with the disease, the League of Filipino Students-San Francisco State University said in its Facebook page.

The Grand Princess Cruise Ship was on its way to Hawaii last February 21 when it learned that two male passengers on a recent trip to Mexico have died of the virus.

The ship sailed to Oakland to let off its passengers and then returned to its home port of San Francisco to start its quarantine procedures.

The Grand Princess is a sister ship of the Diamond Princess that was placed under a four-week quarantine in Yokohama, Japan last month.

According to the FCC, there are still 78 Filipino workers of the original total crew of 1,111 on board and are undergoing quarantine.

A total of 438 Filipino workers earlier left the ship, along with 11 Chinese crew members.

The Grand Princess quarantine ended last Saturday, April 4, the California Office of Emergency Services told a press conference organized by the FCC.

Filipinos in San Francisco demands transparency, testing and treatment for hundreds of crew members still on board the Grand Princess Cruise Ship. (FCC photo)

Wrong strategy

Following the Filipino seafarer’s death, however, labor and community organizations amplified demands for transparency, testing and treatment for the hundreds of workers still on board the ship.

Representatives from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITWF) and other labor advocates described the cruise ship as an “incubator” for the corona virus.

They cited a Center for Disease Control and Prevention study of the Diamond Princess that exposed the disastrous results of quarantining passengers and crew in ships’ tight quarters.

More than 700 of the 3,700 people onboard Diamond Princess tested positive for COVID-19.

Workers remaining on board the Grand Princess are at high risk of exposure and infection until the ship is decontaminated, the ITWF said.

ITWF Northern California Inspector Samantha Levens added, “This is not a problem created by COVID-19. What we are witnessing is existing inequalities and exploitation of seafarers being heighted and exposed by the pandemic.” 

Swati Rayasam of the Alliance for South Asians Taking Action described the treatment of these workers as “appalling” and “inhumane.”

Terry Valen of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns for his part said, “There are no plans in place, as far as we know, from the Office of Emergency Services to house the workers if they can’t get home because of international travel restrictions. Right now they are being asked to stay on the ship.” 

Filipinos in San Francisco demands transparency, testing and treatment for hundreds of crew members still on board the Grand Princess Cruise Ship. (FCC photo)

Fellow Filipino crew members from the Grand Princess who were repatriated in mid-March shared their concern for those still on board.

“I hope that this all ends soon, that they can all go back home to their families here [in the Philippines] who are left wondering, especially the spouses and children,” an audio message from a former Filipino Grand Princess crew member played during the press conference said.

An open letter to Princess Cruises and the Philippine government also said that more than two weeks after being flown back to the Philippines, the workers are still pushing for testing and treatment.

Only a portion of the over 400 workers who were quarantined in a facility in Tarlac, Philippines, were tested for COVID-19. They have since been sent to their home provinces. 

Crew members from India still on board conveyed their concerns in a video uploaded online three weeks ago.

They pleaded to the Indian government to be “evacuate[d] from the ship as soon as possible.”

Community organizations are echoing these concerns.

The Grand Princess Cruise Ship is one of the many ships currently stranded at sea scrambling for safe harbor.

Thousands of passengers and crew members remain on board in at least 15 cruise ships worldwide, with workers representing dozens of countries and nationalities, the FCC said.

Port closures, flight restrictions and border closures add to the direness and urgency of the situation, the group added.

 “As frontline workers, we in the maritime industry literally keep the world running. And our rights and voices must be at the forefront of the fight against this global crisis,” ITF’s Levens said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP: Gov’t in contempt of UN’s global ceasefire plea with ‘non-stop combat operations’

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) accused the Rodrigo Duterte government of violating its unilateral ceasefire declaration and is “in direct contempt” of the United Nations request for a global ceasefire amid the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

In a statement, the CPP said state armed forces continue to mount “non-stop combat operations” against the New People’s Army in at least 63 towns and cities, covering 97 rural villages across the country.

“[Government] Military and police units across the country have continued to carry out relentless offensives despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire declaration which covers the period March 19 to April 15,” Marco Valbuena, CPP chief information officer, said.

The government’s counterinsurgency operations has resulted in a series of armed encounters and widespread violation of human rights violations, Valbuena added.

“Over the past three weeks, state forces attacked and raided at least seven NPA encampments in the provinces of Rizal, Quezon, Bukidnon and Zamboanga Sibugay,” Valbuena said.

The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) also conducted airstrikes and artillery shelling in Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro and Bukidnon, Valbuena reported.

In a separate statement last Saturday, the CPP said there have been at least seven clashes since the separate ceasefire declarations by the CPP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, all reportedly instigated by the military.

On March 17, an NPA unit in Sitio Bendum, Barangay Busdi, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon province was reportedly attacked by the elements of the 85th Infantry Battalion (IP) of the Philippine Army.

On the same day, another unit of the NPA was attacked by a units of the AFP 1st Special Forces Battalion in Mt. Kitanglad, Bukidnon.

On March 28, an NPA unit encamped in the mountainous part of Barangay Pungay, Rodriguez, Rizal was attacked by a unit of the 80th IB.

On March 31, another NPA unit in Barangay Mabunga, Gumaca, Quezon was attacked by a unit of the AFP’s 59th IB. The CPP said the government military unit has been conducting non-stop combat operations in at least five towns in Quezon province.

On April 1, another NPA unit was attacked by the 85th IB in Barangay Ilayang Yuni, Mulanay, Quezon.

Last Thursday, April 2, another NPA encampment unit in Barangay Balagon, Silay, Zamboanga Sibugay was raided by troops of the 44th IB. The same AFP unit raided another NPA camp in Barangay Peñaranda, Kabasalan in the same province.

On the other hand, all NPA units have complied with the CPP declaration, Valbuena said, adding however the guerrilla units are on “extra alert” in the face of the attacks from state forces.

The CPP issued its unilateral ceasefire declaration in response to the call of the United Nations for a global ceasefire that took effect on March 26 and will last until April 15.

According to the CPP, the ceasefire should give all NPA units the opportunity to carry out a public health campaign to help the masses surmount the Covid-19 epidemic.

Units of the NPA are conducting information drives, and campaigns for sanitation and personal hygiene, the CPP said.

Duterte said his government’s unilateral ceasefire order would allow the AFP and the Philippine National Police to focus on defeating the Covid-19 pandemic. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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.

‘Maawa na kayo dito sa San Roque dos’

“Maawa na kayo dito sa San Roque dos, simula nung nagbigayan dito wala pang nakakarating sa amin kahit isa.  Kahapon may dumating na isang truck at dalawang ambulansya na may laman na pinamimigay na bigas ngunit dun lang sa looban tapos dito walang nakarating. Ang sabi babahay-bahayin kaya pinauwi kami. Naghintay kami hanggang gabi ngunit walang hiya, nakatulog nalang kami. Walang nakarating na repack (relief) na galing sa kanila.”

– GLORIA JIMENEZ
Residente ng San Roque 2 Agham Street
Brgy. Bagong Pag-asa, Quezon City

Katha ni Sanafe Marcelo/Kodao

Sitio San Roque: Bigas hindi dahas

Nagsagawa ang mga miyembro ng Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY) ng Sitio San Roque, Barangay Bagong Pag-asa, Quezon City ng isang maikling programa. Ito ay matapos na pagdadamputin at ikulong ang 21 na residente ng nasabing lugar dahil sa isinagawa nilang kilos-protesta.

Naganap noong Abril 1 ang kilos-protesta ng mga residente ng Sitio San Roque na myembro ng Sandigan ng Maralitang Nagkakaisa (SaMaNa). Ang panawagan ng grupo ay bigyan sila ayuda. Simula pa noong Marso 15, pagsisimula ng lockdown, wala pa ring nakukuhang tulong ang mga nagprotestang residente mula sa pamahalaan.

Kinundena ng KADAMAY ang nangyaring marahas na dispersal. Ang mga myembro rin nila mismo sa Sitio San Roque ay nananawagan din ng tulong mula sa gobyerno. Binigyang-linaw din nila na hindi nila myembro ang mga nagprotestang residente.

Bidyo nila Jola Diones-Mamangun, Arrem Alcaraz, Joseph Cuevas, Sanafe Marcelo, Jo Maline Mamangun, at Reggie Mamangun

Music: News – AShamaluevMusic.
Music Link: https://youtu.be/0uoc-FiwMD4

Duterte report shows govt COVID-19 response is insufficient, insensitive

by IBON Media

Research group IBON said that that the Duterte administration’s first official report on COVID-19 efforts only underscored just how government response to the worst public health crisis the country has ever faced is slow, insufficient, and insensitive.

The group said that the report failed to show clearly what the government’s plan is and even just what is being done.

Pres. Duterte submitted to Congress the first official report on COVID-19 response efforts. These weekly reports are required under the Republic Act (RA) 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and are supposed to monitor how the emergency powers granted to the president are utilized. 

The reports should include all response actions carried out by the president in the preceding week, as well as an accounting of the funds used for these. The report submitted, however, covered efforts since the start of the military lockdown.

IBON said that it is now the third week of the lockdown, and the report exposed how government efforts are slow, insufficient and leave out much-needed measures particularly towards bolstering the health sector and urgent socioeconomic relief.

It also showed government’s insensitivity to overwhelmed and unprotected health workers, and millions of Filipinos left with little or no means to meet their families’ basic needs during the lockdown.

As of Tuesday, March 31, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 2,084 with 88 dead from 138 cases and 12 dead as of March 15.

Undermanned and overburdened hospitals strain health workers and unduly exposed them to COVID-19. The Philippine Medical Association has already reported 17 doctors dying while battling the virus.

The government has already acknowledged the poorest 18 million households in the country needing assistance.

Meanwhile, IBON estimates 14.5 million dislocated workers and informal earners, and up to 7.5 million low-income families vulnerable to shocks to their livelihood just in Luzon.

IBON said that government measures to bolster health response and protection for health workers are severely lacking. The report only mentioned the Bureau of Customs (BOC) releasing just 48 boxes of personal protective equipment (PPE), six ventilators, and 97,600 test kits.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) produced 500,000 face masks.

The group noted that the report did not mention such critical tasks like increasing the number of health workers and mass testing. It did not include giving any additional hazard pay, setting up isolation or quarantine facilities, and medical assistance for indigent patients.

Apart from mentioning six ventilators, nothing else was said about expanding facilities and equipment for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, said the group.

With regard to socioeconomic relief measures, IBON said that this is coming down in trickles if at all to the most vulnerable Filipino families. Based on the report, the group noted that of the 18 million households that government acknowledged as needing assistance: only 0.04% (6,314 beneficiaries) received cash, food, and non-food aid from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), while only 1.1% received 194,467 food packs prepared for maybe two to three days.

There was also no mention of emergency support for the 5.6 million senior citizens nationwide.

Meanwhile, millions of Filipinos whose livelihoods and earnings have been affected are also neglected.

IBON noted that only 8,641 or just 0.08% of the up to 10.7 million affected workers nationwide received Php5,000 in COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) financial assistance under the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Only 51,293 or just 1% of up to 5.2 million affected informal earners nationwide became beneficiaries of DOLE’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) work-for-pay programs.

However, there was no report of any financial assistance given by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to the country’s 9.7 million farmers, farm workers and fisherfolk.

IBON said that the lack of or minimal efforts on COVID-19 crisis shown in Pres. Duterte’s first official report bodes ill for the country. It only reflects the disorganized, confusing and chaotic government response so far.

The group said that the pandemic in the country can be contained and overcome if the government replaces its militarist population control-biased approach.

Its measures should instead prioritize virus tracking and surveillance, substantially build the public health system, and address the socioeconomic needs of the population, especially the most vulnerable.

Immediate steps can include health interventions such as mass testing and monitoring, and substantial provision of PPE and other support for health frontliners. Urgent socioeconomic interventions can include the immediate and substantial provision of emergency relief packages, unconditional cash transfers, wage subsidies, and financial assistance, among others, said the group. #

(Kodao reposts IBON articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.)