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In another blow for Japan’s Summer Games, male chauvinist “Olympig” is forced to resign

Second high-level resignation over misogynistic remarks

By Nevin Thompson

On March 17, Tokyo Olympic creative director Sasaki Hiroshi was forced to quit after making misogynistic remarks, becoming the second high-ranking official to be pushed out of the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 because of overt sexism. Sasaki’s resignation marks yet another setback for the 2020 Olympic Games, already postponed a year because of the pandemic, and plagued with gaffes, low public support and the ongoing problem of COVID-19.

Sasaki Hiroshi, who until March had been responsible for the opening and closing ceremonies of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, had been seconded to the position from giant advertising and public relations firm Dentsu. Sasaki stated he proposed the idea a year ago that popular comedian and entertainer Watanabe Naomi, a woman, dress up as a pig as a play on words taking the last three letters of “Olympics.” Sasaki was forced to explain his comments after investigative news magazine Shukan Bunshun broke the story on March 17.

In February, the president of the Japan Olympic Organizing Committee, Yoshiro Mori, had already been forced to resign after making and doubling down on misogynistic comments. Amid national protests, at least 1,000 Olympic volunteers quit before Mori was forced out.

Chelsea Szendi Schieder, historian and faculty member at Aoyama Gakuin University, remarked:

Proposing to cast Watanabe Naomi, the most charismatic talent working in Japan today, as the “Olympig” in the opening ceremonies is insulting, and sadly on-brand for Tokyo 2020.

Others noted that Sasaki’s proposal seemed to exemplify an out-of-touch gerontocracy that is in charge of both the Olympics and Japan itself, a country recently ranked 120th in the world for gender equity. Freelance journalist Thoton Akimoto said:

Who on earth could think dressing up Watanabe Naomi as a pig, and then making her say “I’m an Olympig” would ever be a good idea for the opening ceremony of the Olympics? It’s not only demeaning to Watanabe, but also to anyone self-conscious of their own appearance. The idea could also be perceived as being anti-women. It’s as though Sasaki confused the Olympics with a vulgar variety television show with a 60s or 70s sensibility.

In an official statement, Watanabe said there were no plans for her to participate in the opening ceremonies after the Olympics had been postponed last year, and that she was unaware of Sasaki’s remarks.

Watanabe also said:

As Naomi Watanabe, a person in the public eye, it is true that there are times when people have told me my physique is large, and I have been working with the understanding that there will be times when I will be taunted for it.

In reality, I am very happy with my figure. Therefore, I want to continue to express myself not only as someone who is large but as ‘Naomi Watanabe.’

However, as one human being, I truly hope from the bottom of my heart that the world can become a joyous place where each person’s individuality and ideas are respected and accepted by all.

Amid ongoing controversies, celebrities and other prominent people continue to pull out of the torch relay, which kicked off on March 25 in Fukushima prefecture. Most celebrities, such as beloved entertainer and television host Shofukutei Tsurube and gentleman crooner Itsuki Hiroshi cited “scheduling conflicts” when pulling out of the torch relay.

They are likely responding to public sentiments about the Games. A recent poll by news agency Kyodo found that 80 per cent of Japanese people think the Olympics should be either canceled, or postponed again due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The poll was conducted following Mori Yoshiro’s earlier misogynistic remarks in January and February, which also prompted the exodus of Olympic volunteers.

Despite the setbacks and seeming low public support for the Tokyo Olympics, organizers have insisted the Olympic torch relay will continue as planned  (a “men-only” stage was canceled after public outrage) even as COVID-19 cases continue to increase in cities along the route, including Osaka and Tokyo.

Meanwhile, Japan, with a population of 126 million people, has entered its “fourth wave” of COVID-19. More than 1 million COVID-19 cases have been identified in the country since the start of the pandemic in February 2020, and infection numbers in some parts of the country continue to increase week over week.

By the beginning of April this year, the seven-day average in Tokyo, with a population of 15 million people, identified 440 new cases of COVID-19 per day, compared to 376 and 303 on the previous two Fridays.

On April 1, Osaka prefecture, with a population of 8.8 million, logged its highest daily case count of COVID-19 since January 23, with 559 new cases. Japan’s central government, which retains overall control over regional COVID-19 management measures, has been forced to re-enact stronger measures to reduce infections.

Rising numbers of infections have alarmed not only the Japanese government but others as well. The U.S. military, which itself was implicated with the initial spread of COVID-19 throughout Japan, has identified “red zones” in the country:

Vaccines may not offer an easy exit from COVID-19. While speeding up, Japan’s vaccination program is off to a slow start, with less than one per cent of the population vaccinated so far. The government has signed deals with vaccine providers, and is focusing on healthcare workers and seniors first.

In the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Japanese government has decided to host an “athletes-only” Olympic Games. Theoretically, this would limit the number of overseas visitors to just 15,000. However, the rule would also allow families, coaches, media and sponsors—potentially 100,000 to 200,000 people—to enter Japan from overseas.

Japan’s decision to close its borders to anyone but its citizens has left some foreign residents of Japan stranded overseas. The situation is especially difficult for foreign students, many of whom have been unable to enter Japan for more than a year. While re-entry restrictions have been relaxed, it can still be difficult for students and some workers to receive permission to enter the country.

There are fears Japan will not admit foreigners, including students, visitors, and visa-holders until at least September 2021—after the Olympic Games have concluded.

The Japan Olympic Organizing Committee appears unwilling to acknowledge howregular gaffes, a pattern of outright misogyny among senior leadership and the sense the COVID-19 pandemic is being ignored have all resulted in low public support for the Games.

Instead, after news magazine Shukan Bunshun reported on the Sasaki Hiroshi’s “Olympig” comments that resulted in his resignation, Hashimoto Seiko, who replaced Mori Yoshiro on the new Organizing Committee, demanded the publication retract the story and pull all physical copies from circulation.

Shukan Bunshun bluntly refused, causing yet a new controversy for the Tokyo Olympics. Besides noting that it is in the public interest to report on a taxpayer-funded event, Shukan Bunshan concluded its response with this question:

Translation:

Who are the Tokyo Olympics for? It shouldn’t just be an “Olympics for some people,” such as the organizing committee, Dentsu, and politicians.

Original Quote:

東京オリンピックは、誰のためにあるのか。組織委員会や電通、政治家など利益を得る一部の人々のために、オリンピックがあるのではないか。

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Kodao publishes Global Voices articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.

QC houses demolished amid strict Covid lockdown

[UPDATED, 7:00 AM, April 6, 2021] Amid an extended round of the latest Covid pandemic lockdown, several houses had been demolished today along Maginoo Street, Barangay Pinyahan in Quezon City.

Urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) reported that elderly residents who lived in the demolished houses have been forced out on the streets, raising fears they may later be arrested by the police for curfew and lock down violations.

Eleven families were affected and no relocation has yet been offered to them, Kadamay told Kodao.

Private claimant-couple Nicolo and Luzviminda Junsay led the demolition, Kadamay said.

The group claimed the demolition is illegal and that barangay officials had no prior knowledge of the incident.

Kadamay said that prior to today’s incident, the affected residents were being forced to sign certain documents but no court order and notice have been presented before the demolition team swooped down on the community.

Demolition along Maginoo Street, Brgy. Pinyahan, Quezon City. (Kadamay photos)

“While we are under the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine), the demolition pushed through. No notice, no relief goods, no assistance had been given to those affected and straight out on the streets they went,” Kadamay said in an alert.

The group blamed both the National Housing Authority and President Rodrigo Duterte as promoters of demolitions.

“They order us to stay at home while new coronavirus cases are on the rise, but they continue to endanger people. Those affected have lost their houses and are likely to be arrested while they are out on the streets,” Kadamay said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Measly ECQ aid an afterthought — IBON

by IBON Foundation

Research group IBON said that the Duterte administration’s financial assistance to families affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is so little that it is plainly just an afterthought.

Giving assistance clearly only entered the government’s mind when it once again resorted to an ill-conceived ECQ to try and contain the uncontrollable spread of COVID-19, said the group.

The Duterte administration announced that it will distribute assistance to some 22.9 million low-income households affected by the renewed ECQ in the National Capital Region, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan (dubbed NCR+).

It promises Php1,000 per individual to be distributed by the local government units (LGUs) as cash or in kind.

The so-called supplementary Social Amelioration Program (SAP) is evidently hastily being put together just now, said IBON.

The group said that after a year, the government has noticeably forgotten about giving aid and has not even bothered to make any contingencies or guidelines for providing further emergency cash subsidies.

IBON also observed how the budget for this is not being determined by the needs of Filipino families being driven into deeper distress.

Instead, the allocation for aid is decided based merely on the amount of leftovers from COVID-19 response funds that should have already been spent.

The economic managers said financing would be sourced from Php23 billion in unspent Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) funds.

As a result, said IBON, only a measly Php1,000 is being allotted per individual including for those who have already suffered joblessness, loss of incomes and livelihoods, and depleted savings after over a year of lockdowns.

This is even less than two days of the NCR minimum wage of Php537, said the group.

IBON added that the assistance looks even more meager compared to its estimated family living wage (FLW) of Php1,064 as of February 2021. The FLW is the amount needed by a family of five members each day to meet their basic needs.

As it is, even the very few families getting the full amount of emergency cash aid under Bayanihan 1, Bayanihan 2 and this supplementary SAP would only have gotten around Php15,607 to help tide them over the 54 weeks of lockdowns since March 15, 2020.

This is the sum of average assistance received under the SAP 1st tranche (Php5,637) and SAP 2nd tranche (Php5,970), and assuming a family gets the maximum Php4,000 supplementary SAP today.

IBON said that poor and low-income families in NCR+ deserve not just Php1,000 but at least Php10,000 in emergency cash subsidies to be distributed immediately, or ten times more than being offered after a year of lockdowns.

This should even be given for at least three months and then to at least the poorest 18 million or even 22.5 million families, stressed the group.

Substantial emergency cash subsidies will provide immediate relief to tens of millions of Filipinos as well as significantly spur aggregate demand to help the economy recover faster, said IBON. #

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Kodao publishes IBON articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.

‘Hindi pwedeng ganito’

Gusto ko sanang abutin ang maraming pamilyang namatayan dahil sa COVID o mga pasyenteng nagka-COVID na nakaranas ng palpak na responde mula sa sistemang pangkalusugan ng bansa. Hindi dapat sila nagdusa, hindi sana tayo nagluluksa kung naging episyente lamang ang tugon sa atin.

Ni Man Hernando

Walang nag-akala na ang kuha sa litrato na ito ang magiging isa sa huling masasayang sandali natin bilang pamilya. Sana nilubos na natin. Sana nayakap ka namin.

Ang problema lang naman natin sa kalusugan mo ay ang pagiging makakalimutin mo. Minsan bibigyan ka ni nanay ng listahan ng mga dapat bilhin o dapat gawin para siguradong pagbalik mo ay gawa mo ang lahat ng ipinagagawa sa ‘yo. Pero babalik kang nagkakamot ng ulo dahil isa o ilan lang sa mga nakalista ang nagawa o nabili mo dahil nakalimutan mo kung saan mo nailagay ang listahan. May mga biyahe kayo ni nanay na nakakarating ka na sa malayong lugar bago mapagtanto na naiwan mo siya sa bahay dahil humarurot ka na sa pagpapatakbo ng motor nang hindi mo pa siya nai-aangkas. Ang ikinakatakot lang namin noon ay magka-Alzheimer’s ka.

Ang teorya namin, kaakibat na iyon ng iyong pagtanda at iniindang sakit na diabetes at mahinang baga. Pero bukod sa problemang iyan, kaya naman nating i-manage ang blood sugar at baga mo. Dahil na rin sa pandemic, tiniyak nating paborable ang nutrisyon at kaayusan sa bahay para sa inyo ni nanay. Regular ang pagdi-disinfect lalo na sa kwarto niyo. No Smoking Area ang buong bahay. At natuwa ako nang todo nang makumbinse ko kayong lahat na at least maging vegetarian. At pinakamahalaga, nakakakuha kayo ni nanay ng maraming energy kay Aully, Armee at iba niyong apo para manatiling malakas.

Unti-unting binalot ng kakaibang atmospera ang bahay nang nagsimula kang ubuhin. Napag-alaman natin kasunod na may nakatagpo kang isang kaibigang kalauna’y nagpositibo sa COVID. Sinikap natin kaagad noon na mapa-swab at mapatignan kayo pareho ni nanay sa isang klinika. Pero lahat ng subukan natin, mapa-publiko o pribadong pasilidad na malapit sa atin, ay ‘di kayo tinatanggap dahil mahaba ang pila at hindi tumatanggap ng walk-in. Kaya sinikap na lang namin, lalo ni nanay, na alagaan at pagalingin ka sa bahay.

Pero iba na ang pakiramdam mo nitong Martes. Lumala ang pag-ubo at nahirapan ka nang huminga. Hindi na rin kinakaya ni nanay kaya’t kahit walang appointment, nangahas na tayo na dalhin ka sa Bernardino General Hospital sa QC. Bandang alas-otso ito ng umaga. Doon, naigiit natin na i-x-ray at ma-test ka ng rapid antigen test. Agad na lumabas ang resulta. Positibo ka sa COVID at may pneumonia. Pero walang paglapat ng lunas na ginawa sayo o pagbibigay-gabay man lamang sa kasama mo kung paano ka magagamot. Ni hindi itinuro kung ano ang gagawin o paano ba ikino-koordina sa ibang pasilidad ang pang-gagamot sayo. Pinauwi ka ng ospital pagtapos magbayad ng limang libo.

Pag-uwi sa bahay, bandang alas-diyes, lalo ka nang nanghina. Kaya, sa payo ng kaibigang doktor, kumontak kami sa One Hospital Command Center (OHCC) at hotline ng Caloocan City Health Office (CCHO) para masundo at madala ka sa isang COVID facility. Wala tayong napala. Ni hindi makapasok ang tawag namin sa hotline ng OHCC. Palaging busy o cannot be reached ang kabilang linya.

Nakailang-tawag rin kami sa CCHO, naitatala ang ating request pero lagi lang sinasabi na maghintay. Naghintay tayo maghapon, pero walang dumating na tulong. Mabuti na lang at napakiusapan natin ang isang kakilala sa Barangay Hall ng Barangay 176 para magamit ang ambulansiya nila. Dumating sila alas kwatro ng hapon at kinuha ka, kasama si nanay. Pero hindi nila alam ang gagawin. Hindi pala naka-koordina iyon sa barangay at hindi rin naka-koordina ang barangay sa ospital na pagdadalhan.

Pagdating sa QC General Hospital, doon niyo nakita ang aktwal na kalagayan ng pandemya sa bansa: mahabang pila sa ER; hindi sapat na pasilidad; at over-burdened na mga medical frontliner. Nang lumapit kayo para humingi ng tulong, agaran ang tugon nila na hindi nila kayo magagamot sa mga oras na iyon. Una ay sinisi pa nila kayo kung bakit hindi kayo naka-coordinate. Ano nga bang malay natin na hindi pala tayo ikinordina ng barangay, hindi ba? Sinabi natin na huwag naman tayong pabayaan dahil lang sa hindi sila kinausap ng barangay. Nang maggiit tayo na huwag nila kayong tanggihan, saka lang nila sinabi na dapat kang mabigyan ng oxygen pero wala silang available. Mahaba raw ang pila at kailangang maghintay.

Pero tuloy-tuloy kang nagpapakita ng panghihina. Lumalalim na lalo ang paghinga mo at hindi na humihinto ang pag-ubo. Sa yugtong iyon, may isang kaibigang nagmagandang-loob na kumontak sa East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) at nang malamang tumatanggap ng pasyente doon ay nagpasya tayong lumipat. Nagpaalam tayo sa QC Gen. Humingi sana ng kung anong coordination o endorsement pero wala silang ibinigay.

East Avenue Medical Center (larawan mula sa Wikipedia)

Pagdating sa EAMC, bandang alas nuwebe, ganoon rin ang sitwasyon. Walang tigil ang pagdating ng pasyente. Hirap na hirap ang mga frontliner. Walang sapat na pasilidad.

Gaya sa QC Gen, sinabi ulit sa atin na hindi tayo matatanggap dahil hindi tayo na-coordinate. Napaisip na ako nito. Bakit ganoon? Yung coordination, yung One Hospital Command Center ng DOH, imbes na makapagpadali sa proseso ng panggagamot sa mga pasyente ay nagiging burukratikong sagka pa para hindi nila gamutin ang tulad mo.

Sabi ng kausap natin sa triage, Lung Center of the Philippines(LCP) lang daw ang tumatanggap ng hindi naka-coordinate na pasyente. Dahil malapit lang, dali-dali kaming nag-inquire sa LCP. Pagdating doon bandang alas diyes ng gabi, sinabi sa information tent na hindi rin nila masasabi kung magagamot ka nila. Nagmamakaawa na kami sa kausap namin. Pero wala raw silang magagawa. Punuan ang pasilidad kaya’t wala silang maipangako.

Mabuti na lang sa oras ding iyon, naawa na sa kalagayan mo ang mga staff ng ER sa EAMC. Sa wakas, pinayagan ka na nilang pumasok sa loob ng ER. Habang tulak-tulak ko ang wheelchair mo paakyat sa ER kinakausap kita. Sabi ko sa yo: “Tatay, ito na, magagamot ka na. May mga doktor nang titingin sayo. Kaya tibayan mo lang loob mo, pagtutulungan nating lahat ang pagpapagaling mo.”

Pagdating sa pintuan, tinanong ko kung kumusta ka. Sumagot ka,” OK lang.” May kasamang thumbs up pa. Iyon na pala ang huli nating pag-uusap.

Bago pa man nila tingnan ang kalagayan mo, pinagsulat nila ako ng waiver na nagsasabing walang magiging pananagutan ang ospital sa kung ano man ang mangyari sa’yo. Desperado na kami. Hindi ka makakapasok hangga’t ‘di ako sumasang-ayon. Kaya kahit mabigat sa loob, isinulat ko ang idinikta nila.

Inakala naming malulunasan ka na kaagad. Pero hindi pa rin pala.

Pagpasok sa iyo, natanaw ka namin sa malayo. Ipinwesto lang ang wheelchair mo sa isang gilid kasama ng hindi ko mabilang na kritikal na pasyente. Aligaga ang mga frontliner. Hirap na hirap sila sa sitwasyon. Kami, alam kong ikaw rin noon, umaasa ka na mapapansin at makakatanggap na ng oxygen. Pero wala raw available. Hindi nila masabi kung kailan ka mabibigyan. Anong gagawin namin? May waiver kaming pinirmahan.

Gumawa kami ng paraan. Nanawagan kami kung sino sa kakilala ang pwedeng magpahiram ng aparato para sa oxygen. Nakakuha tayo, ala-una ng madaling araw. Pero sa hindi namin maintindihang kadahilanan: hindi nila pinayagang magamit mo iyon.

Lumipas pa ang ilang oras bago ka unang makatikim ng hangin mula sa oxygen. Sabi ng (nurse na) bantay mo, nangingitim ka na noon. Sa pag-alala namin, kumilos kami para mailipat ka sa isang pasilidad kung saan ka matututukan. Lumapit kami sa lahat ng kaya naming lapitan. May tumugon na ilang kaibigan sa loob ng ospital. Dahil sa paggigiit natin sa ER at sa tulong nila, naiakyat ka sa ward, madaling araw ng Abril 1.

Pag-akyat doon, siguro dahil sa paga-alala mo kung nasaan ka at nasaan kami o marahil dala na rin ng pagdidiliryo dulot ng kakapusan ng oxygen sa katawan mo, naging agitated ka raw. May oxygen ka na ulit. Pero hindi na pala sasapat iyon.

Ilang oras lang, bumagsak sa 60% ang oxygen level sa katawan mo. Lubhang napakababa kaya dinesisyunan na nilang gamitan ka ng ventilator. Last resort na raw iyon. At mula sa puntong iyon ay wala na raw kasiguruhan ang susunod na mangyayari.

Kung anuman ang ibig sabihin noon, hindi namin lubos na gagap. Basta huling kita namin sa iyo malakas ka. Naga-alala, pero buo ang pag-asa namin noon na para iyon sa mabilis mong recovery.

Lumipas ang mga oras na intubated ka. Kahit ang (nurse na) bantay mo ay nagimbal sa mga nasasaksihan niya sa mga oras na iyon. Wala kang malay. May mga oras na may sobrang lalim at bagal ang paghinga mo. May panahong para kang nalulunod. Pero sa mas mahabang panahon, payapa ka. Kaya sabi namin, kaya mo ‘yan.

Google search. Batay sa mga medical articles na nabasa ko, naglalaro sa 30-40% ang global death rate ng mga ginamitan ng ventilator. Inisip ko, malakas ka eh. Siguradong pasok ka doon sa 60-70% na magsu-survive. Hawak namin ang pag-asa na iyon hanggang alas-onse y medya.

Sinagot ko ang tawag ng kapatid ko. Hinatid ng iyong (nurse na) bantay sa kaniya ang balita na wala ka na. Idineklara kang patay 11:10 pm. Sabi ng bantay mo, ilang minuto lang daw iyon pagkatapos mong marinig ang boses ni nanay sa cellphone na sinasabing hinihintay ka niya na gumaling agad. Na mahal na mahal ka niya. Pinipilit mo raw dumilat ng mga panahon na iyon. Gumalaw pa nga raw ang isa mong daliri. Pero pagkatapos noon ay naghabol ka na ng hininga hanggang sa malagot ito.

Si G. Joseph Rumbaua, ang namayapa at ama ng awtor.

Hindi na namin alam kung ano talaga ang pahiwatig mo noon. Pero naniniwala ako na yun yung panahon na lubhang tumaas ang kagustuhan mong bumangon at makauwi pero nasa rurok na rin ng dominasyon sa katawan mo ang COVID. Lumaban ka hanggang huling hininga. Sana naramdaman mong nakipaglaban rin kami. Sadya lang talagang napakalupit ng kalaban natin at pinalalakas siya ng palpak na sistemang pangkalusugan sa bansa.

Sa pagpanaw mo, tatay, lalo kong naunawaan kung bakit natin iginigiit ang episyente at komprehensibong sistemang pangkalusugan. Kung sana naging masinsin ang sistema ng contact tracing at quarantine, pwedeng hindi ka na-expose sa COVID. Kung may accessible at maagap na testing, laboratoryo, at check up sa iyo, higit sana kaming mulat sa paga-alaga sa iyo. Kung malakas, nadaragdagan at napangangalagaan ang mga medical frontliner natin, may nakakatugon sana kaagad sa mga pangangailangan ng mga tulad mo. Kung may sapat na pasilidad lamang sana, hindi mo kailangang pumila ng matagal para madugtungan ang iyong hininga. Kung may episyente sanang polisiya at koordinasyon ang DOH at buong gobyerno para tuluyang wakasan ang pandemyang ito, siguro kasama ka pa namin ngayon.

Pero ayaw kong dito tapusin ang istorya mo. Hindi pwedeng ganito. Para sa iyo at iba pang tatay at nanay, lolo, lola at kapamilya, ipatigil na natin ito. Gusto ko sanang abutin ang maraming pamilyang namatayan dahil sa COVID o mga pasyenteng nagka-COVID na nakaranas ng palpak na responde mula sa sistemang pangkalusugan ng bansa. Hindi dapat sila nagdusa, hindi sana tayo nagluluksa kung naging episyente lamang ang tugon sa atin. Maaari tayong manghingi ng indemnipikasyon dahil sa kapalpakan nila. Higit doon, maaari nating ipanawagang palitan sila at ang nakamamatay nilang sistema. #

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Si Man Hernando ay kasapi ng Migrante.

‘Palitan na! Sana all!’

“Binigyan ng budget sa inutang na bilyong pera, binigyan ng Bayanihan Law, binigyan ng emergency powers. (Pero) kulelat sa bakuna, tumaas pa ang kaso ng VEERUS. Binigay na all, pero palpak sila all. PALITAN NA! SANA ALL!” Atty. Howard M. Calleja, Convener, 1Sambayan

Habang sila ay nagsasalo-salo

Ni George Tumaob Calaor

May salo-salo sa gusali ng pangulo

may litson may birthday candle pang ibino-blow…

habang sa kabiserang banda ng bansang Pilipino

nagkukumahog sa pangamba ang mga tao…

muling ipapatupad ang ECQ

nang walang karampatang pag-aaviso…

tiyak maraming sikmura ang sa gutom ay mangungulo!

Ina…

may sanggol kang mangungulit ng gatas sa iyo…

Ama…

may asawa’t mga anak kang umaantabay sa pasalubong mo…

Mag-aaral…

malinaw pa ba ang iyong paningin

sa mga aralin sa online class mo—

may load pa ba ang internet mo—

mababasa mo pa ba ang modyul mo?

Manggagawa…

sapat pa ba ang kinikita mo—

kumusta na ang trabaho?

Magsasaka…

berding uhay ng ginintuang butil pa ba

ang kumakaway sa palayan mo?

May salo-salo sa gusali ng pangulo

may litson birthday candle nito’y ibino-blow…

sa Canlubang, Laguna

ang Pangalawang Pangulo

ng PAMANTIK-KMU…

pinagbabaril

at sa tinamo

ng tamang walo!…

marahas na binawian

ng buhay ito!

#DutertePalpak

#OUSTDUTERTENOW

‘Hindi ECQ ang solusyon sa pagdami ng COVID cases’

“Hindi ECQ ang solusyon sa pagdami ng COVID cases sa ngayon kundi [ang] paghigpit sa preventive measures. Palitan na ang mga bumubuo ng IATF at ilagay ang mga health expert at mga scientist para magkaroon ng scientific at comprehensive na plano para masugpo itong COVID-19 na ito. Solusyong medikal, hindi militar!Robert Mendoza, National President, Alliance of Health Workers

Groups: ‘New ECQ is display of gov’t’s incompetence’

Groups condemned government’s announcement of plans to put Metro Manila and and provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan, and Rizal under the strictest quarantine measure anew.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte for another round of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is a display of “never-ending cycle of incompetence.”

“We are going back to ECQ but without the government assurance that there will be increased free mass testing, better contact tracing and increased capacity of our hospitals including more health workers. We are going back to ECQ without the assurance of aid for the economically displaced,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

Reyes said the IATF recommendation again places the burden and sacrifice squarely on the people.

“We cannot merely rely on lockdowns to stop the spread of COVID. The lockdowns are only supposed to buy government time to beef up the health care system,” Reyes added.

In a Facebook post on March 27, Presidential spokesperson Herminio Roque Jr said the ECQ shall again involve the heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce community quarantine protocols.

Curfew shall also be imposed from six o’clock in the evening to five o’clock the next morning.

Nearly 10,000 new cases daily are being reported in the Philippines in the past few days, the worst in the Western Pacific.

Migrante International also scored the announcement, saying the new lockdown measures only show the Duterte government has failed in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Migrante said the government’s militaristic response is to blame for the country’s failure to check the spread of the virus, including its new variants.

“Kaya po sa pagbabalik ng ECQ sa ating bansa, ang kailangan po natin ngayon ay panagutin ang mga nagkasala, ang mga nagkulang at naging palpak mula nang unang ipatupad ang lockdown noong isang taon,” Migrante International said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘They treated me like I murdered someone’: Lockdown arrests mark 1st year of PH pandemic response

Fines from lockdown arrests have bled poor Filipinos dry while the rich and famous get wrist slaps for similar offenses. Calls for a different approach grow louder as the pandemic lockdown enters its second year.

BY AIE BALAGTAS SEE/Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

Hunger pains hit Erwin Macahig, 30, at an inconvenient time on a hot and humid evening in the slums of Navotas. 

It was 9 p.m. on April 8, 2020, an hour past the city-imposed curfew that took effect roughly two weeks after the country’s Covid-19 infections began to rise and the Philippine capital was put on lockdown. The city streets turned into a ghost town manned by cops and soldiers in camouflage uniforms. The poorly lit alleys where Macahig lived seemed even darker in the silence of the night.

He was walking toward a sari-sari store when someone grabbed his wrist from behind. A cop. Three of his neighbors – out on the streets like him – were rounded up as well. 

The cops were accompanied by barangay officials who were jittery about Covid-19 spreading in the village and wouldn’t tolerate excuses that night from residents who violated the curfew ordinance. 

After getting a swab test at a public hospital, Macahig and the three other men were taken to a school where they were to be detained for the next 30 days for “simple disobedience” – unless they could post bail worth P3,000. For someone who had just been retrenched, the amount was a fortune that was impossible to raise in the middle of a pandemic.

“We did not receive financial aid from the government. Our food supply was only a few canned goods and three kilos of rice for a month. And they want us to pay a P3,000 fine? Where are we going to get that money? Frankly, they just made our difficult situation tougher,” Macahig told the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) in Filipino. 

Getting a criminal record for a mere attempt to buy food was beyond Macahig’s imagination.

“I don’t deny committing violations but why did they have to treat me like I just murdered someone?” he said.

Punitive pandemic response

Lockdown arrests marked the early months of the Philippines’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Police Task Force Covid Shield has not released the total number of Filipinos arrested, detained, or fined one year since the lockdown began on March 15, but it was already at 100,000 as of September 2020. 

Police Major General Marni Marcos, chief of the Directorate for Investigation and Detection Management, has yet to respond to PCIJ’s requests for data. 

The punitive response has drawn a lot of controversies. In Santa Cruz town, capital of Laguna province, curfew violators, including children, were locked up in a dog cage. In Dasmariñas Village in Makati City, a Spanish national was declared an “undesirable alien” who could no longer return to the country, after an altercation with cops over mask rules. In Quezon City, a former soldier with mental illness was killed by cops after a commotion near a quarantine control point.

Many ended up in packed detention centers, which health and jail experts said were among the worst places to find one’s self in during the pandemic. They called them “breeding grounds” for Covid-19, where detainees were at risk of being exposed to the disease that the government has been trying to protect them from. 

In Navotas, about 1,000 people were cramped in the school where Macahig was detained. Fifty violators shared one classroom, he said. At night, they slept on cartons on cold floors. There were no provisions for food, soap, alcohol and potable water, he said. 

“I was more afraid of contracting the virus there because we didn’t comply with health protocols in the school at all. Detainees only wore face masks and followed social distancing rules when a high police official arrived for inspection,” Macahig said.

They were later transferred to an open space – a covered court behind the school building – after the school was converted into a quarantine site for suspected Covid-19 cases.

His friends and family – all of whom were financially knocked out by business closures themselves – eventually raised funds for his bail. “They did it out of pity. Some donated P20; others P100,” he said. 

Macahig was released on April 23 after he paid the fine. He pled guilty before a municipal trial court.

Relatives of quarantine violators wait outside the Navotas Metropolitan Trial Court to get their kin out of detention. There was a narrow window for the processing of release documents, 8 a.m. to noon, as working periods were shortened because of the pandemic. Photograph: Vincent Go
‘My family thought I was dead’

Other than imposing curfews, local governments also issued travel passes to limit the number of people allowed to go out even during day time. Those who didn’t have passes were arrested, too.

But Caloocan fish vendor Joseph Jimeda, known to many social media users as “Mang Dodong,” said he was arrested despite having a travel pass.

He was travelling to neighboring Navotas with friends to buy fish that they could sell in the market when the police took them on suspicion they didn’t have travel passes. Jimeda said he begged the cops for compassion because he had a four-year old at home and his wife had a cataract and could barely see.

“We kept explaining that we have them (about the travel passes), but the cops never listened to us. They just wanted to arrest people,” Jimeda said in an interview.

At the detention center, Jimeda received smacks and punches from authorities, instead of food and help. He could not inform his family of his whereabouts because he did not have a mobile phone at that time. The police did not help him. “All the while my family thought I was dead,” he said.

Jimeda was detained in the same covered court in Navotas several weeks after Macahig was released. Again, there was not enough food for the growing number of detainees. Those who didn’t receive visitors often suffered from hunger, he said. 

‘Yung iba akala mo patay-gutom (You’d think the others were destitutes),” Macahig said. “Some of them will join you in your meals uninvited. It’s embarrassing to shoo them away.”

Jimeda was released onMay 19 after 12 days in detention.

Photo shows Mang Dodong in detention  at the enclosed Navotas Sports Complex on May 14, 2020. The sports complex served as a detention center for quarantine violators. Photograph: Vincent Go
No money to pay fines

Those who couldn’t pay the fines had to stay longer in detention. 

Randy delos Santos, a coordinator of the church group Paghilom led by Fr. Flavie Villanueva, said several people from the slums have sought financial assistance from their office in Manila since April of last year. 

They had similar complaints: Being fined and arrested for violating quarantine rules.

The penalties ranged from P250 to P50,000, depending on the type of violation alleged and the city where it was committed.

Delos Santos said the calls for help usually came from people in Navotas, Manila and Caloocan. 

Delos Santos said there should be a shift in policies because fines imposed by ordinances that were passed to address the health crisis were bleeding the poor dry and sending them into deeper debt.

“It’s an additional burden to the poor,” delos Santos said. “Local governments should channel their energies toward educating the people and teaching the community how to follow proper health protocols,” delos Santos said.

While the poor suffered fines and long days in detention centers for finding ways to fend off their hunger, the past year has shown that the rich and powerful can hold parties and receive token wrist slaps for their violations. 

In January, events organizer and host Tim Yap organized a party in Baguio City, attended by guests who didn’t wear masks, among them contact-tracing czar and Baguio mayor Benjamin Magalong. Another celebrity, Raymond Gutierrez, threw a birthday party at trendy Bonifacio Global City Taguig the same month. 

In the early days of the pandemic, Makati Medical Center castigated Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III for breaching quarantine protocols when he brought his pregnant wife to the hospital while he was waiting for the results of his test for Covid-19. 

Philippine National Police chief Debold Sinas was caught holding a birthday party inside Camp Aguinaldo, while the president’s spokesperson, Harry Roque, visited a marine park in Subic. There were no repercussions for the two despite the ban on mass gatherings and unessential travel.

A different approach is needed

Carlos Conde, researcher for Human Rights Watch in Asia, said local governments must rethink “anti-poor policies” such as sending people to jail for breaking health protocols and fining violators who are obviously penniless.

“No one should spend a night in jail for violating quarantine rules. That’s inhumane,” Conde told PCIJ.

Conde said that instead of arrests and fines, the local government should channel their efforts into a massive information drive for the public to better understand the dangers of the virus that has so far killed two million people worldwide.

Political science professor Maria Ela Atienza said the government should train its sights on harnessing “bayanihan” or community spirit among Filipinos instead of imposing a culture of crime and punishment to address the pandemic. The public needed to be encouraged to take care of themselves in order to take care of one another, she said.

Atienza said the government’s message was “people should just follow rules” instead of  “the government is doing its best to make sure we have enough resources for public health and we are tying our best to support those who were economically dislocated as a result of the lockdown and we need the help of everyone to help each other.”

“The language is not focused on the cooperation of people, it’s more about getting them to follow. Otherwise, you’ll be meted with punishment. It’s (the government narrative) not for a country that’s supposed to be democratic,” she said.

To encourage better public participation, Atienza said efforts must be exerted to ensure that the law applied equally to the rich and the poor.

“The pandemic and the response of the government… exposed the inequality not only in Philipine politics but in Philippine society where you have senators and other officials, even police personnel, who violate the lockdown restrictions but at the same time they are not penalized,” she said

“But you have fish, vegetable vendors and jeepney drivers trying to find alternative sources of income penalized heavily. So you also see inequality in terms of enforcement of lockdown rules and accountability on the part of government officials,” she added.

Mang Dodong finally on his way home, late in the afternoon of May 19, 2020. Photograph: Vincent Go

One year after the Philippines went into lockdown, data from the World Health Organization showed the country as having the worst coronavirus performance in the Western Pacific Region, with a total of 611,618 infections and 12,694 deaths as of March 14. 

Infections are rising again, hovering between over 2,000 to nearly 4,000 new cases a day in recent days after months of recording less than 2,000 daily new infections on average. Metro Manila mayors have again imposed uniform curfew hours, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., beginning March 15. 

The punitive response cannot continue, said Macahig. “The government should find better solutions. It needs to stop imposing fines that only makes the poor poorer. We’re in the middle of a pandemic yet they keep milking us for money.” #

BAYAN, ipinaliwanag ang #DutertePalpak sa pandemya

Ipinaliwanag ni Renato Reyes, pangkalahatang kalihim ng Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), ang aniya’y maraming kapalpakan ng gubyernong Rodrigo Duterte sa isang taong pagharap ng bansa sa pandemyang coronavirus. Sa harap ng Commission on Human Rights sa Quezon City noong Marso 17, 2021, inilahad ni Reyes ang kawalan ng maayos na sistema sa pagharap sa pandemya na nagdulot ng isang taong nagdurusa ng mamamayan sa mga hakbangin ng pamahalaan. Kabilang dito ang matinding pagbagsak ng ekonomiya, malawakang pagkawala ng trabaho, walang sapat na ayuda sa mga maralita, at patuloy pagdami ng nagkakasakit ng COVID – 19.