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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Pressed for something more substantial, it superseded that first package and threw a Php275 billion figure into the air during the railroading of emergency powers through Congress.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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‘Walang makikinabang, lahat talo’

Hinggil sa ipinatupad na deployment ban ng gobyerno sa ating mga health workers…

“Kung i-e-employ ang mga healthcare workers, siguradong may makikinabang, siguradong may matutulungan, dito man o sa ibang bansa. Kung itetengga sila rito pero hindi naman i-ha-hire ng gobyerno, walang makikinabang, lahat talo.”

Dr. Gene Nisperos

Asst. Professor, UP College of Medicine

Jo Maline Mamangun

As extended lockdown begins: Gov’t response stalled, stingy despite millions of Filipinos in need

by IBON Media

At the end of the original month-long lockdown period and on the first day of its extension, research group IBON said that the government is still failing to give millions of poor and vulnerable Filipinos the socioeconomic relief they need.

Poor households have struggled to survive four weeks of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and will only endure greater difficulties during the two-week extension.

The Duterte administration needs to let go of its burdensome bureaucratic requirements, increase funding, and expedite getting help to all families in need, said the group.

The Duterte administration released the third report on its COVID-19 response as required under the Bayanihan Heal as One Act or Republic Act (RA) 11469 which granted Pres. Duterte emergency powers.

IBON said that millions of Filipinos are still not getting relief despite these emergency powers, even measured against the administration’s already low targets.

The group noted that no additional beneficiaries were given emergency subsidies since the 3.7 million reported last week.

This is only one-fifth or 21% of the 18 million low-income families targeted by the government.

They also only received an average of Php4,391 which is barely half the maximum Php8,000 the government promised.

Meanwhile, the number of workers and informal earners that received financial assistance has increased but this is still way below the millions of displaced workers and informal earners as per IBON estimates.

IBON said that the number of workers assisted by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) increased by only 79,553 to 167, 491, which is just 1.7% of 10.7 million workers.

The number of informal workers assisted went up by only 62,152 to 118,086, or only 2.3% of 5.2 million non-agricultural informal earners.

Emergency subsidies were also provided to 40,418 drivers at Php8,000 each through a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Land Transportation and Franchising Board (LTFRB) and Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP).

But this is just 9% of the 435,000 drivers targeted for assistance under the MOA, said the group.

IBON also noted that some farmers have finally received cash assistance from the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The agency reported giving Php5,000 each in unconditional cash transfers to 319,489 farmer beneficiaries.

However, this is only 3.3% of the IBON-estimated 9.7 million farmers, farm workers and fisherfolk needing assistance.

IBON said that the unambitious targets as well as snail-paced and measly socioeconomic response into the fifth week of lockdown only affirms government’s continued indifference and negligence, especially towards the poorest and most vulnerable.

More and more Filipino families will be pushed into deeper poverty under the COVID-19 lockdown if government does not speed up and significantly expand socioeconomic relief and response to reach all those needing assistance, said the group. #

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

‘Nauubos na rin yung aking puhunan’

“Nauubos na rin yung aking puhunan. Dati, namumuhunan, utang pa, bumbay pa, 5-6 pa. Ngayon, wala kaming gaanong tinda. Sisingilin ka pa ng kung anu-anong kautangan mo riyan. Kaya mahirap din po sa kasalukuyan ang nagaganap sa atin.”

Margarita Casballedo
Tindera ng ulam
Residente ng Brgy. Pinyahan

Jo Maline Mamangun

Si Lisa at ang mga Lumad na bakwit sa panahon ng enhanced community quarantine

Nakapanayan ng Kodao si Lisa, isang grade 10 student ng Salugpongan School. Kumusta siya at ang kanyang mga kasamang Lumad na bakwit sa panahon ng enhanced community quarantine? Panoorin ang bidyong ito.

Bidyo nina Maricon Montajes at Joseph Cuevas

Extending the Lockdown Should Be for Saving Lives

By Gene Alzona Nisperos, MD / Community Medicine Development Foundation

The extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) should not be a mere repeat of the month-long lockdown that was bereft of elements necessary to make containment measures effective and more palatable to Filipinos.

Saving lives remains the overarching objective in the fight against COVID-19 but, thus far, the actions taken by government lack both the transparency and comprehensiveness that express its serious intention towards this goal. Instead, there are issues of trust and credibility.

Even as the Department of Health (DOH) relented to the call for mass testing, the reported numbers do not add up, causing more confusion. The conflation between number of tests done and number of individuals tested does not help any. There is severe under-reporting, including those for persons under investigation (PUIs) and persons under monitoring (PUMs), that needs to be seriously addressed.

Further, local quarantine centers outside Metro Manila must also be established. The capacity of the healthcare delivery system under local government units (LGUs) should be raised to prepare for more COVID-19 cases. Enhancing the capacities of the barangays and the mobilization of barangay health emergency response teams (BHERTs) should go together with setting up local quarantine centers. The government should utilize all of its resources in health and create a more centralized command that will work closely with LGUs.

The DOH should protect health workers while actively recruiting and hiring more. Adequate health human resources are central in this campaign, being both the first and last lines of defense. Providing health workers with sufficient resources and personal protective equipment (PPEs), ensuring work safety, and monitoring their well being, including periodic testing, are absolutely essential.

As health personnel are dwindling, the DOH should actively recruit more to supplement the health workforce. The call for volunteers is inappropriate given the amount of money mobilized in the name of COVID-19. It will cost the government around 7.2 billion pesos to hire 10,000 doctors and 20,000 nurses for the next six months, and this amount represents just half of the Department of Tourism allocation. The least that this government can do for the health workers willing to put themselves on the line is to protect them and provide them with adequate remuneration.

As the war against COVID-19 is waged, patients who do not have COVID-19 but likewise need medical care must not be forgotten. Diseases like renal failure requiring dialysis or cancer that need chemotherapy will not wait. Yet these patients, especially the poor, have even less access to health services now. This too must be addressed.

Sadly, the DOH and the Duterte administration have shown no sense of urgency. Amidst a public health crisis, this is unacceptable and must change. The current extension must do more if the ECQ is to be meaningful and effective in saving lives.  

The urgent social imperatives experienced by the poor have not been addressed and the provision of adequate safety nets and social support has largely failed. People are experiencing hunger because the relief assistance did not come on time or was not enough for their families. 

Again, the government should take a more active role in ensuring that the food packs being distributed are sufficient. Government should also ensure access to basic utilities like water, which is needed to ensure hand washing and overall hygiene. Economic relief for those who lost income or were economically displaced must be given. This is the social determination of health. 

Most importantly, fundamental human rights must still be recognized and respected.

The ECQ is a health measure. It should not be used as an excuse to further impose repressive measures against the people. There should be no curtailment of basic freedoms and civil liberties. Rather than stifling dissent through threats, the government would do well to focus its energies on gaining the trust of the people.

The authoritarian behavior of the current dispensation should always be challenged. After all, it is a lockdown for health, not a political crackdown. The virus is the enemy, not the people. 

The containment of COVID-19 is a means to save lives. The extension of the ECQ should be towards this end. At this juncture, public health interventions are essential, social and economic aid is imperative, and resistance to tyranny necessary. #

–The author is a professor of community medicine at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.

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

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Maayos na pampublikong transportasyon, iginiit ng health workers

Ni Joseph Cuevas

Nanawagan ang Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) sa gobyerno na kagyat na baguhin ang mga batas, patakaran at alituntunin na sumasagka sa mga health worker upang mas maayos na makapagbigay ng de-kalidad na serbisyo sa panahon ng community quarantine kaugnay ng corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

Iginiit ni Robert Mendoza, tagapangulo ng AHW, na palawigin pa ng pamahalaan ang plano sa transportasyon na magbibigay-luwag sa mga manggagawang pangkalusugan upang tiyakin ang kanilang kagalingan, proteksyon, kaligtasan.

Ang panawagan ng grupo ay ipinahayag matapos may dalawang health worker na magka-angkas sa motorsiklo noong Miyerkules, Marso 25, ang hinarang ng lokal na pamahalaan ng Valenzuela City kahit nagpakita pa ng identification card na sila ay galing sa mga ospital.

Photo by Gerald Libiran.

Pinagmulta ng P5,000 si Gerald Libiran ng Philippine Orthopedic Center ang dahil lumabag umano ito sa pagbabawal sa backriding dahil sa Covid-19 lockdown. Angkas noon ni Libiran ang kanyang kapatid na empleyado rin ng National Children’s Hospital pauwi sa Bulacan.

Naiulat rin na iba pang nars ang napilitang bumaba at maglakad papunta sa kani-kanilang ospital at pauwi dahil hinaharang ang kanilang sinasakyan.

Sa kabila ng sakripisyo at paghihirap para makapasok at makapagbigay ng serbisyong medikal sa mga pasyente ay ibayong hirap pa ang nararanasan ng mga health worker dahil sa kawalan ng lohika ng patakaran sa transportasyon ng lockdown ng pamahalaan, ayon kay Mendoza.

“Wala na ngang maibigay na personal protective equipment (PPE) upang matiyak ang aming kaligtasan sa panganib ng corona virus ay panggigipit pa ang inaabot namin sa daan,” reklamo niya.

Ayon naman sa Kagawaran sa Transportasyon, nagdagdag na sila ng iba pang ruta para sa libreng sakay ng mga health workers simula noong Marso 20.

Mula sa tatlong ruta sa umpisa ng lockdown, mayroon nang 13 ruta na may 74 na sasakyan ang umiikot sa mga sumusunod:  

NORTHWEST AREA, REVISED ROUTE 1

  • Meralco (Malanday)*
  • Valenzuela City General Hospital
  • MCU Hospital (Monumento)*
  • Caloocan City Medical Center
  • Tondo General Hospital
  • Our Lady of Fatima
  • Metropolitan Medical Center
  • San Lazaro Hospital
  • Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center
  • University of Sto. Tomas Hospital
  • Chinese General Hospital
  • United Doctors Medical Center (Welcome Rotonda)*

NORTHWEST AREA, REVISED ROUTE 2

  • Valenzuela Gateway Complex*
  • Quezon City General Hospital
  • Balintawak*
  • MCU Hospital (Monumento)*
  • Our Lady of Fatima University
  • Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center
  • Philippine Orthopedic Center
  • United Doctors Medical Center (Welcome Rotonda)*

NORTHWEST AREA, REVISED ROUTE 3

  • SM City SJDM (Bulacan)
  • Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial (Caloocan)
  • SM Fairview*
  • Diliman Doctors Hospital
  • Veterans Memorial Medical Center
  • Lung Center of the Philippines
  • Philippine Heart Center
  • East Avenue Medical Center
  • Philippine Children’s Hospital
  • Centris Station (EDSA / Quezon Ave.)*

EAST AREA, ROUTE 4

  • SM City Masinag*
  • Marikina Valley Medical Center
  • Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center
  • BFCT East Metro Transport Terminal*
  • Quirino Memorial Medical Center
  • Araneta Center Bus Terminal
  • Robinsons Galleria*
  • The Medical City – Ortigas

EAST AREA, ROUTE 5

  • Ortigas Hospital & Healthcare (Cainta)*
  • SM City East Ortigas
  • Pasig City General Hospital
  • The Medical City Ortigas
  • Robinsons Galleria*
  • VRP Medical Center
  • St. Luke’s Medical Center*
  • Rizal Medical Center

CENTRAL AREA, ROUTE 6

  • Centris Station (EDSA / Quezon Ave.)*
  • Providence Hospital
  • Capitol Medical Center
  • Philippine Orthopedic Center (Banawe)
  • United Doctors Medical Center (Welcome Rotonda)*
  • National Children’s Hospital
  • De Los Santos Medical Center
  • St. Luke’s Medical Center (E. Rodriguez)
  • UERM Memorial Medical Center
  • MRT-3 Cubao / Araneta Center*

CENTRAL/EAST AREA, REVISED ROUTE 7

  • Pasig City General Hospital
  • Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral*
  • Pasig Rotonda
  • Rizal Medical Center
  • The Medical City (Ortigas)
  • Robinsons Galleria*
  • Cardinal Santos Medical Center
  • VRP Medical Center
  • National Center for Mental Health
  • Makati Medical Center*

SOUTHEAST AREA, REVISED ROUTE 8

  • Starmall – Alabang*
  • SLEX Sucat Exit*
  • Bicutan Exit
  • Makati Medical Center*
  • St. Luke’s Medical Center – BGC*

SOUTHWEST AREA, REVISED ROUTE 9

  • Vista Mall, Daang Hari*
  • Perpetual Help Medical Center (Las Piñas)
  • Las Piñas General Hospital
  • Baclaran Market*
  • San Juan de Dios Educational Medical Center
  • Pasay City General Hospital
  • Adventist Medical Center
  • Makati Medical Center*
  • Philippine General Hospital
  • Manila Doctors Hospital
  • United Doctors Medical Center (Welcome Rotonda)*

SOUTHEAST AREA, ROUTE 10

  • RITM*
  • Asian Hospital and Medical Center
  • Muntinlupa City Hospital
  • Starmall – Alabang*

SOUTHEAST AREA, ROUTE 11

  • Starmall – Alabang*
  • SLEX Sucat Exit*
  • Bicutan Exit
  • San Juan de Dios EFI – Hospital
  • Gil Puyat Station LRT-1*
  • Philippine General Hospital
  • Manila Doctors Hospital

SOUTHEAST AREA, ROUTE 12

  • SM Molino
  • Imus Transport Plaza
  • Las Piñas General Hospital and Satellite Trauma Center
  • Baclaran Market*
  • San Juan de Dios Educational Foundation Hospital
  • Gil Puyat*
  • Adventist Medical Center Manila
  • Philippine General Hospital*
  • Manila Doctors Hospital*

SOUTH AREA, ROUTE 13

  • Seaoil Imus Daang Hari/Aguinaldo
  • Imus Transport Terminal*
  • Las Piñas General Hospital
  • Perpetual Help Medical Center
  • RITM*
  • Asian Hospital and Medical Center
  • Muntinlupa Hospital
  • Starmall Alabang*

*Pick-up/transfer points

Ang mga doctor, nars, at iba pang kawani ng mga ospital ay makakasakay sa mga oras na 5 a.m., 7 a.m., 1 p.m. 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., alinsunod sa iba pang patakaran katulad ng tamang pag-aagwat at pagkuha ng temperatura ng mga pasahero.

Photo by Joseph Cuevas.

Health workers package hiling sa kaarawan ni Duterte

Hiniling rin ng AHW sa kaarawan ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte kahapon, Sabado, Marso 28, na bigyan sila ng “Health Workers Package” bilang pagtupad sa pangako nito sa mga manggagawang pangkalusugan at mamamayan.

Kabilang sa pakete ang kagyat na paglalaan at pagbibigay ng sapat at de-kalidad na mga PPE para sa mga health worker sa mga pampubliko at pribadong ospital, regular na empleyo at hindi boluntarismo sa mga pampublikong ospital ngayong panahod ng Covid-19 at kalaunan.

Dagdag rin sa pakete ang hazard pay at sapat na kompensasyon sa mga health worker, pagtaas sa pambansang badyet pangkalusugan at mass testing para sa lahat ng mga pasyenteng may sintomas ng COVID-19, gayundin sa mga frontline health worker at hindi VIP testing sa mga politiko. #