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ECQ, extended until May 15

List of areas under enhanced community quarantine until May 15:

National Capital Region/Metro Manila
Albay
Bataan
Batangas
Bulacan
Catanduanes
Cavite
Laguna
Nueva Ecija
Occidental Mindoro
Oriental Mindoro
Pampanga
Quezon
Rizal
Pangasinan (may change by April 30)
Benguet (may change by April 30)
Tarlac (may change by April 30)
Zambales (may change by April 30)

Areas that are still subject to review:

Aklan
Antique
Cebu
Cebu City
Capiz
Iloilo
Davao del Norte
Davao City
Davao del Oro

PH 0 of 6 in WHO condition for ending COVID lockdown

By Sanaf Marcelo

A community medicine expert said that the Philippines scores zero out of six in the World Health Organization (WHO) list of conditions for ending coronavirus lockdowns.

University of the Philippines College of Medicine Assistant Professor Gene Nisperos told an online forum organized by the health group Second Opinion PH last Thursday, April 23, that the Philippines is failing to meet any of the conditions set by the global health organization for lifting lockdowns aimed at reversing the pandemic.

Nisperos said the way heath workers continue to be at risk indicates how the Philippines is so far failing to turn the tide against the disease.

“The Department of Health (DOH) has reported that there are 1,062 health workers infected by the COVID-19 which, at 13%, is the highest in Asia,” Nisperos said.

In its Covid-19 strategy update published last April 14, the WHO said the following must be met before governments could think about lifting their imposed lockdown:

1. Disease transmission is under control;

2. Health systems are able to “detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact”;

3. Hot spot risks are minimized in vulnerable places, such as nursing homes;

4. Schools, workplaces and other essential places have established preventive measures;

5. The risk of importing new cases “can be managed”; and

6. Communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to live under a new normal.

“We must admit that our country is one of the countries that have a weak health system even if the Department of Health keeps denying it,” Nisperos added.

Sean Velchez, a nurse at the Philippine Orthopedic Center, said that it looks like the government is still on Day One of its lockdown even if the enhanced community quarantine in wide areas throughout the country has already passed its 38th day.

‘We in the hospitals are mainly dependent on the PPEs and medicine donations from the private sector because the government cannot provide enough protective equipment for the health workers,” Velchez said.

 The two health workers urged the DOH to take the lead role in directing the country’s response to the pandemic and cease from simply listening to directives from politicians.

DOH should be more proactive and must have the plans and recommendations for this to fight COVID-19, they said.

Gov’t extends ECQ to May 15

Meanwhile, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced that the government has decided to extend the ECQ to 15 more days when the first extension expires on April 30.

Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte is extending the ECQ on the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog to May 15.

Roque said Duterte agreed with the recommendations submitted by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to also extend the lockdown on other high-risk areas in Luzon, such as Pangasinan, Benguet, Mindoro island, Albay and Catanduanes.

ECQs are also being imposed in Antique, Iloilo, Cebu and Cebu City, Aklan and Capiz in the Visayas and Davao del Norte, Davao City and Davao de Oro in Mindanao. # (With reports from R. Villanueva)

‘Tulong Guro’ sa panahon ng COVID lockdown

Habang nasa ika-anim na linggo na ang enhanced community quarantine sa buong Luzon dahil sa Covid-19, marami sa mga Filipino ang higit nangangailangan ng tulong.

Ang ACT for People’s Health na pinangungunahan ng mga progresibong guro ay naglunsad ng “Tulong Guro” na ang layunin ay makapagbigay-tulong sa mga frontliner, laluna na sa mga health workers at mahihirap na pamayanan habang lockdown.

Background music: A life in a day Cinematic Folk Ambient Cinematic Sounds [KK No Copyright Music] / Bidyo nina Jola Diones-Mamangun, Arrem Alcaraz at Joseph Cuevas

On the sixth week of lockdown: Millions of Filipinos going hungry, suffer amid worst mass unemployment in history

By IBON Media

Research group IBON said that millions of Filipinos are going hungry and suffering the worst mass unemployment in the country’s history as the sixth week of lockdown begins.

The group said that government relief efforts, especially to the poorest Filipinos, is sluggish and minimal.

The Duterte administration is not giving emergency relief enough attention and appears more focused on using “martial law-like” measures to contain mounting social unrest, said the group.

Pres. Duterte’s latest report to Congress shows how government’s socioeconomic response is still dragging and meager, even in achieving its already low targets. Even with emergency powers granted to the President, bureaucratic hurdles and inefficiencies continue to stall urgent relief efforts. 

IBON said that there has been little improvement in the distribution of promised emergency subsidies.

The group noted that just about 4.3 million or less than one in four (24%) of the government’s targeted 18 million low income families have received cash assistance.

Contrary to the promise of supposedly up to Php5,000-8,000 in aid each, recipients instead received just an average of Php4,392 each.

No additional Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries have been given assistance other than the 3.7 million families reported three weeks ago.

Also, just 617,141 more non-4Ps beneficiaries have been served since then.

Non-4Ps beneficiaries apparently include the previously reported 40,418 drivers of public utility vehicles and transport network vehicle service; this is only 9% of the 435,000 drivers nationwide targeted for cash aid.

This means that as many as 13.6 million or 76% of the 18 million poorest families have not received emergency subsidies and are going hungry, said the group.

IBON said that millions of households are at risk of hunger because of the poor reach of emergency subsidies and even of government’s other financial assistance programs.

The Department of Labor Employment (DOLE) stopped accepting applications due to the depletion of the Php1.6 billion fund for its COVID-19 Adjustment Measure Program (CAMP).

Only 264,154 formal workers have received Php5,000 each in financial assistance as of April 19.

This is just 2.5% of the IBON-estimated 10.7 million workers in the country, a large majority of whom are affected by the lockdown.

The group said that it is unclear if affected workers unable to avail from CAMP will now be shouldered by the Department of Finance’s Small Business Wage Subsidy Program.

Not all formal workers in need meet the criteria of being employed in small businesses and registered with the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Social Security System.

Meanwhile, just 235,949 informal workers were assisted by DOLE, which is still only 3.4% of 5.2 million non-agricultural informal earners estimated by IBON. They received just an average of Php2,300 each.

IBON said that financial assistance for farmers and fisherfolk is also slow and negligible.

The Department of Agriculture has so far reported giving assistance to 300,994 farmers under the Rice Farmers Financial Assistance Program and 52,043 farmers under the Financial Subsidy for Rice Farmers Program.

This means only a total of 353,037 farmers have been given subsidies or just 3.6% of the country’s 9.7 million farmers, farm workers and fisherfolk as per IBON estimates.

IBON expressed concern that the government is more focused on using a militarist approach instead of swiftly resolving inefficiencies and ensuring that emergency subsidies are given to all vulnerable households. Government’s neglect could lead to more and more Filipinos violating quarantine as they seek ways to feed their families.

If the government gives more emphasis on “martial-law like” measures instead of being more humane and sensitive to the plight of poor and low-income families under lockdown, millions of families will go hungry amid more human rights violations and mounting social unrest, said the group. #

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

BM: Kasiyahan sa likod ng paglilingkod

Dumating kahapon, Abril 20, ang ika-limang batch ng mga gulay mula sa Benguet. Mabilis itong nirepack ng mga volunteers ng Bayang Matulungin sa kanilang opisina sa Quezon City.

Ayon kay Tatay Louie, isa sa mga volunteers, masaya at nakakawala ng pagod ang pagbabalot ng mga gulay sapagkat marami ang matutulungan nito. Dagdag pa niya, hindi raw kayang tumbasan ng anumang salapi ang kanilang kasiyahang nadarama.

Ipinamagi ang mga ito sa mga barangay sa Quezon City kasama rin ang Caloocan at Maynila. Kabilang sa mga napamahigaan ay ang Brgy. 181, Caloocan City, Maisan, Sampaloc, Manila, at Brgy. Old Balara, Brgy. Payatas, Brgy. Tatalon, at Brgy. Pansol sa Quezon City.

Bidyo nina Jo Maline Mamangun, Jola Diones-Mamangun, at Reggie Mamangun

‘We underwent through a proper process’

On the arrest of former Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao and Sagip Kanayunan volunteers:

This illegal and immoral arrest could be one of the major blunders of the Duterte government’s continued effort to red-tag progressives, reaching to the point where one agency refuses to recognize the authority of another agency to issue food passes. Contrary to the statement of Usec. Malaya, we underwent through a proper process in applying for the food pass, so that our delivery of relief packs to the distressed fishing and farming communities will not be hampered.

Fernando Hicap

Chairperson, PAMALAKAYA

Former Anakpawis Party Representative

Carlo Francisco

‘The potential for abuse is high’

“The current COVID19 crisis is a health issue with far-reaching social implications. It should not be treated as a mere peace and order problem where enforcement is the main concern. The potential for abuse is high if Martial Law-type enforcement is implemented.”

Renato Reyes, Jr.

Secretary-General,

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)

Carlo Francisco

There’s funding to respond to COVID-19 – the problem is at the top

By Sonny Africa

The Duterte administration is still not clear on what its COVID-19 response is and how much this will cost. On top of that, it also doesn’t know how to fund this because it refuses to let go of its sacred cows – infrastructure, debt service, and the accumulated wealth and profits of the country’s economic elite.

Millions of poor Filipino families are suffering the worst mass unemployment in the country’s history because of the military lockdown since March. This has even been extended for another two weeks. Yet, tragically, the nation still does not know how far it really is in dealing with its worst public health crisis ever.

It is over two months since the first confirmed case of COVID-19, nearly four weeks into the unprecedented lockdown, and over two weeks into pandemic emergency powers. The Duterte administration’s confusion and disarray in responding is unforgiveable and a disservice to the heroic efforts of so many Filipinos including in the lower levels of government and private sector volunteers.

Even worse, based on what little we know, the Duterte administration’s response is not just unclear but also slow and stingy. This means that millions of Filipinos are facing more difficulties today than ever, and also that there will be a deeper socioeconomic crisis going on long after the lockdown is lifted.

Billions to respond

The clearest sign that things are so unclear for the administration is its inability to say exactly what its COVID-19 response is and what budget is needed.

When the military lockdown was declared, the government announced a Php27.1 billion package versus the pandemic. This was a haphazard cobbling together for crude public relations purposes of mainly recycled pre-pandemic government programs, including a completely irrelevant Php14 billion for tourism.

Pressed for something more substantial, it superseded that first package and threw a Php275 billion figure into the air during the railroading of emergency powers through Congress. This supposedly consisted of Php200 billion for emergency subsidies and Php75 billion for health care.

Two weeks and two reports to Congress on the use of emergency powers later, that Php275 billion is still the representative figure and the closest thing to a summary of the government’s COVID-19 response.

In the meantime, the government reports what are meant to be impressive efforts at raising funds for its COVID-19 response – Php300 billion from the sale of government securities, Php189.8 billion in unreleased appropriations and realignments, Php121.6 billion in advanced remittances of dividends to the national government from government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs), Php22 billion in unutilized cash balances and funds, and Php10.3 billion in additional cash allocations and allotments.

Mechanically adding these up gives the impression of Php644.1 billion already available from various sources. However, at least Php143.6 billion or 22% of this – the early dividends and unutilized cash – is actually not a literally new budget for the response and just about ensuring there’s cash at hand to immediately spend. The economic managers are also looking at US$2 billion from multilateral lenders.

Seeing so many numbers is bewildering – so where exactly are we?

Residents of Barangay Payatas’ “Plastikan Area” receive food aid from the group The Vegan Neighbors.

What response?

The logical place to start is from identifying what needs to be done. It’s a straightforward matter to just list what the government itself has already identified as needed, whether by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) or as implied in the president’s reports to Congress.

There are the health interventions: personal protective equipment (PPE) and other logistical support for medical frontliners and responders; mass testing and surveillance; isolation and quarantine facilities in congested urban poor communities; and treatment facilities including medical supplies.

There are also the equally critical socioeconomic relief measures: emergency relief packages, cash transfers and other financial assistance, and business support for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

And yet, so deep already into the crisis, the Duterte administration has failed to present a clear response plan to the public. Instead, the nation is fed a daily stream of anecdotal reports about its fragmented efforts. Clearly, these efforts are far from enough. The lived experience of thousands of frontliners and millions of locked-down households is stark neglect and unnecessary difficulties mounting by the day.

The president’s disorganized reports to Congress on March 30 and April 6 are of little help and in many ways just add to the confusion.

Compiling the various measures scattered in the reports shows the government apparently having plans worth Php233.9 billion. This includes Php38.6 billion for hospitals and other health facilities, Php114 million for emergency relief packages, Php154.4 billion for cash transfers and other financial assistance, and Php40.8 billion for local government units (LGUs).

This is getting close but still doesn’t correspond to the headline Php275 billion figure. The president’s reports to Congress seem to detail the Php200 billion emergency subsidies portion a little bit while leaving a gaping void in what the supposed Php75 billion for health care is about. In any case, something’s wrong if the government’s plan has to be built up in such a piecemeal manner.

Residents of Barangay Payatas’ “Plastikan Area” receive food aid from the group The Vegan Neighbors.

Slow response

The need for clarity about the response doesn’t just come from being unnecessarily obsessive-compulsive about details. Clarity about the response is the starting point of marshalling public resources and organizing the machinery for the immediate and effective response demanded by the crisis.

The disarray goes far in explaining the sluggish response of the administration to date. IBON estimates that up to 18.9 million workers in the formal and informal sector have been dislocated by the military lockdown; 14.5 million of these are in Luzon and the other 4.4 million in the rest of the country. ‘Dislocated’ is understood as work interruptions of some sort with varied risks of corresponding losses in wages, salaries and other income.

The month-and-a-half lockdown-induced disruption in incomes and livelihoods has dire consequences for the poorest 16.1 million low-income families in the country. Their monthly incomes are at most around Php20,000 or so, according to IBON estimates using data from the latest 2018 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). These poorest three-fifths (64%) of families are also those who have little or no savings to speak of, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

The government itself has acknowledged the vulnerable situation of the overwhelming majority of the population. The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Republic Act 11469) explicitly said that 18 million low-income households – corresponding to around the poorest 75% of the population – will be given emergency subsidies.

Yet, weeks into the lockdown, the government response is still painfully slow and inadequate. It seems to have waited until hunger and unrest became critical. This is exemplified by the frustration of the urban poor residents of Sitio San Roque, Quezon City in the heart of the capital who were violently dispersed and, bizarrely, 21 of whom were even detained and charged.

It took three long weeks before emergency cash subsidies were released. And yet these have still so far only reached 3.7-4.9 million poor households – the government’s report is confusing – or not even one third (20-27%) of the supposed target 18 million households under RA 11469. Over two-thirds or as much as 11.5 million badly affected families are still waiting.

Adding insult to injury, the government could have reached as much as 10-15 million households immediately upon the lockdown three weeks ago. The president is also only able to report just a paltry 190,217 food packs distributed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Underfunded local government units (LGUs), civil society groups, and concerned citizens have tried their best to fill this gap.

The government’s other emergency relief programs are doing even worse. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reports just 102,892 formal sector workers given Php5,000 in cash assistance under its COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) – or barely 1% of 10.7 million workers in formal establishments nationwide. Only 55,934 informal workers have benefited from DOLE’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD), receiving just an average of Php3,121 each.

Up to 357,614 farmers and fisherfolk have supposedly been given zero interest loans under the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Expanded Survival and Recovery Aid (SURE Aid) project, or granted loan payment moratoriums. This is just 3.7% of farmers, farm workers and fisherfolk nationwide. The president’s report however could not say how much this support was worth.

Residents of Barangay Payatas’ “Plastikan Area” receive food aid from the group The Vegan Neighbors.

Stingy response

The Duterte administration may be giving repeated anecdotal reports to give the impression of sustained help. The response however is still clearly very slow.

At least part of the reason is the government rationing the help and putting so many bureaucratic hurdles for poor families. However, the importance of ensuring that all the neediest are covered far outweighs the redundance of some less needy being included. Choosing to err on the side of inclusion means dispensing with these hurdles.

But the response is also stingy in two respects.

First, the amounts being given are very small. Beneficiaries will welcome any aid given to them but the amounts fall far short of even the government’s underestimated official poverty line of on average Php10,727 nationwide and Php11,951 in the National Capital Region (NCR).

It is also probable that reported cash transfers for the poorest are bloated because the amounts likely include prior entitlements before the pandemic.

Secondly, the Php275 billion response package is too small to provide critical subsistence support to all the millions of affected households during the lockdown and in the immediate period right after. It is also far below the order of magnitude needed to support the consumption-driven stimulus that the economy needs to moderate the economic collapse in 2020.

IBON is among many others that have pointed out that the relief measures have to be much more ambitious. Our estimate is that Php297.1 billion monthly is more sufficient and should be given for up to 2-3 months at least. This does not yet even include perhaps Php300-400 billion in crucial support for critically affected businesses especially the country’s 998,000 or so micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Aid workers arrested by the police on alleged violations of the lockdown policy of the government. (Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura photo)

Funding the response

The president’s lamentation in his last report on government’s response about lack of funding of course raises a valid point. Hundreds of billions of pesos are needed not just to contain the pandemic but to keep the economy from sinking further after the lockdown. More so amid the global recession. And this is not even to speak of what’s needed in the coming years to build a more stable and self-reliant economy.

This is where the Duterte administration is particularly stumbling. It either does not appreciate the difficulties faced by the people and the economy, or chooses to be insensitive because it refuses to even consider the radical measures needed to address these.

The government can find the funding for COVID-19 response measures needed – on a scale many times over its Php275 billion program – if it genuinely wants to. The administration basically has three areas of financing:

1. Budget realignment. It can realign existing budget items under the Php4.1 trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2020 and Continuing Appropriations from 2019. This includes using savings from existing projects, activities and programs to outright discontinuing them and then diverting budgets to COVID-19 response.

The president’s first report to Congress mentioned Php372.7 billion in unreleased special purpose fund (SPF) allotments. This was presumably mentioned as the initial universe of budget items that can be realigned. By the second report, Php189.9 billion was said to have already been so realigned (including Php100 billion to the DSWD); a large part are reportedly from capital outlays.

However, the government can be much more aggressive in considering budget items for realignment. The Php9.6 billion in dubious confidential and intelligence funds – including Php4.5 billion just for the president – is a start.

The Php989 billion public infrastructure program should be opened up to greater scrutiny. The feasibility studies of these projects were all drawn up at a time of giddy optimism about the economy. However previous assessments of economic and financial viability will no longer hold in today’s greatly changed conditions. At the very least, the social need for many of them will have been overtaken by pandemic-related needs.

The current crisis can also be used to justify at least a moratorium on the government’s debt payments. The SPF includes Php451 billion just for debt service on interest payments. Outside the GAA, there is also Php582 billion for principal amortization. Political will can overcome accustomed automatic appropriations and the habitual deference to creditors.

2. Solidarity financingThe administration can resort to increased borrowing but prioritizing those with favorable terms for the country. The administration has already sold Php300 billion in government securities to the BSP in a classic monetizing of the deficit. It is also looking into borrowing US$1.25 billion from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) – aside from US$8 million in grants – and possibly another US$1.1 billion from the World Bank.

However, the government can consider issuing special COVID-19 bonds targeted especially at large corporations, financial institutions and oligarchic families. There is a huge concentration of financial resources and wealth in this regard that can be mobilized beyond individual donations during the lockdown. This is debt but it can be designed more on solidarity terms rather than on crude financial metrics to minimize the burden on the government. For instance, they can be at low, zero or negative interest rates and be zero coupon; making them tax-exempt can be a sweetener. Perhaps Php300-600 billion can be raised in this way.

3. New progressive taxes. With a view to the longer term, the administration can actually consider new taxes on those who can afford this. It is worth recalling that the TRAIN Law lowered the personal income taxes (PIT), estate taxes and donor taxes on the country’s higher-income groups. This already resulted in Php117 billion in foregone revenues in 2018 – with initial projections of foregone PIT revenues of up to Php193.5 billion in 2022.

The government can consider starting with reverting personal income, estate and donor taxes to pre-TRAIN levels. This focuses on those who, even with the pandemic, are still in a much better position to contribute to the national effort. Tax levels can be fine-tuned to keep higher tax rates on the super-rich and to preserve tax benefits for middle-income households affected by the pandemic and the economic crisis to come.

COVID-19 has highlighted the critical importance of government intervention and public resources in a time of crisis. But it should also drawn attention to how significant government intervention is needed to address chronic problems of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment.

The radical shifts in economic policies the country needs after the pandemic and entering into a world economy in recession will demand huge government resources, among other interventions. Building up the public health system is just the start and the country’s agricultural and industrial system needs to be significantly and rapidly bolstered. A progressive tax system is among the many crucial policy measures to do these.

Barangay Krus na Ligas market goers call for faster distribution of releif aid by the government during the Covid-19 lockdown. (Kodao photo)

Unprecedented crisis

Time is running out for the Duterte government to put together a bold a COVID-19 response package. The country is still at the start of a steeply rising curve of infections and fatalities. After the lockdown, the economy will be facing a steeply falling curve of severe economic crisis.

Every day of delay means more distress for the poorest and most vulnerable, micro entrepreneurs and small businesses sinking, and of course the virus just waiting to spread even more rapidly once the lockdown is lifted.

The priority is saving lives and easing hardship. The problem right now is not lack of a national effort to deal with these – so many Filipinos are struggling everyday to deal with the pandemic and they deserve all the help they can get.

As so many are already realizing – the problem is at the top. #

Updated April 12, 2020 to clarify tax proposals

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The author is the executive director of IBON.org

‘Matigas ang ulo niyo!’

By Renato Reyes Jr.

It appears the Duterte regime may extend the lockdown for another two weeks, and then blame the people for it. The developing storyline is that Filipinos are hard-headed and will cause the failure of the quarantine measures. An extension is thus necessary. Martial Law-style implementation is also necessary.

While we recognize there may be difficulties in the proper implementation of the quarantine protocols by some elements, it would be unjust and highly insensitive to blame this solely on the people, especially the poor.

Before accepting hook, line and sinker the Palace excuse, let us all pause for a moment and examine why we find ourselves where we are now in the first place.

It was Malacañang’s slow response to and downplaying of the global health crisis which led to the imposition of severe quarantine measures throughout Luzon and other parts of the Philippines. There was no travel ban at the onset, local transmission happened, and the health system was ill-prepared to handle a crisis.

Let us remind policymakers that when the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was imposed, there were no plans for public transportation, social protection, relief for affected families and uniformity in the execution of quarantine measures. Local government units (LGUs) were asked to fend for themselves while the regime was busy setting up checkpoints and militarizing the entire ECQ, turning it into a harsh lockdown for the people.

Let us remind policymakers that at the onset, the regime resisted the call for mass testing as well as the positive initiatives of some LGUs to implement health measures. Only after the clamor became so loud that the DOH finally acknowledged the need for mass testing for COVID 19.

Let us remind the people of how the powerful would flaunt quarantine protocols because they felt that they were somehow exempted, thus potentially infecting other people.

Let us remind the regime how it treated the people of San Roque when they sought food and economic aid. They were arrested, charged with so many ridiculous cases and made to pay P15,000 each for bail – when the most reasonable response would have been to just give them food.

Let us continue to point out the fact that the emergency powers did little to speed up the social amelioration program of the government. Up to now, despite the money already allotted, millions still have not received the promised economic support. The list of beneficiaries approved by the DSWD is often less than the list submitted by the LGUs, thus creating problems among administrators and those who are in need.

“Matigas ang ulo niyo!” does not reflect the complex and difficult situation faced by our people. It glosses over government culpability for the crisis and unfairly shifts the blame to the people.

While the ECQ has slowed down the spread of the disease, we have always maintained that it is not enough nor is the lockdown the decisive measure in fighting COVID19. We need mass testing, contact tracing, isolation and treatment of patients. We need to ramp up our health services to accommodate more patients. We need economic support for the people because we cannot expect them to simply stay at home when they are faced with hunger.

We have called on the government to show the people its roadmap and the key indicators for the lifting or modification of the lockdown. How will we move from a state of ECQ to the easing of restrictions as our health system copes with the rising number of COVID19 cases. We supported the recommendations of the University of the Philippines Pandemic Response Team for a modified community quarantine that allows the resumption of economic activity and restores the livelihood of the people.

We cannot simply accept an open-ended or indefinite lockdown that does not address the health and economic needs of the people. We cannot accept laying the blame on people to cover up government inaction, incompetence or gross negligence. We cannot accept heightened military response as the ONLY way to enforce quarantine measures. Whatever happened to “mulat na disiplina” where people follow protocols because they understand what these mean and not because they fear the government? A heightened militarist response invites more abuses in a time when the country is faced with a serious health crisis.

Blaming the people for quarantine woes and difficulties absolves the government of its primary responsibility of effectively fighting COVID19 while protecting the rights and welfare of the people. “Matigas ang ulo niyo!” doesn’t explain away the problems the regime itself should be accountable for. #

The author is the secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

Bayan Muna, namamahagi ng tulong sa mga apektado ng lockdown

Naglunsad ang Bayan Muna Partylist ng programang “Bayang Matulungin” upang magpamahagi ng tulong sa mga pangunahing apektado ng Enhanced Community Quarantine.

Ayon kay Sam Bautista ng Bayan Muna Partylist, halos lahat ng lungsod sa Metro Manila ay napamahaginan na nila ng relief goods, maging ang mga malalayo at karatig na lalawigan, gaya ng Mindoro, Laguna, Rizal at Nueva Ecija.

Nananawagan ang progresibong partido na pabilisin pa ng pamahalaan ang pamamahagi ng ayuda sa mga mahihirap lalo na sa panahon ng kasalukuyang krisis.

Bidyo nina Jek Alcaraz, Joseph Cuevas, at Jola Diones-Mamangun

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