These officials flouted lockdown rules in Myanmar, Malaysia, and the Philippines

Arrest a community volunteer, then throw yourself a party

By Mong Palatino/Global Voices

Lockdown restrictions were enforced by many countries across the world to contain the spread of COVID-19, and Southeast Asia has hosted some of the harshest.

Most quarantine protocols require residents to stay at home, while mass gatherings are typically prohibited.

In Malaysia and the Philippines a particularly strict enforcement of these measures saw thousands of arrests and heavy penalties for violations from March onwards.

But a number of government officials were caught violating the very quarantine protocols they were supposed to oversee.

Global Voices looked into some of these cases, and their outcomes, which highlight how rules apply to ordinary citizens more than to powerful politicians.

We also considered a case in Myanmar that showed how religious discrimination can have a bearing on the application of the law.

Malaysia: ‘Disparity in sentencing’

Malaysia has arrested almost 30,000 people for violating its Movement Control Order (MCO). Harsh implementation was cited by authorities as necessary to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases.

But the public noticed that several politicians flouted the guidelines. The Centre For Independent Journalism compiled documented many of these instances. In one case, Deputy Health Minister Noor Azmi Ghazali posted a now-deleted Facebook photograph of him and another elected representative sharing a meal with about 30 students. Deputy Rural Development Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Mohamad meanwhile enjoyed an impromptu birthday party. Datuk Abdul Rahman Mohamad claimed that the party was a surprise sprung on him by friends and said he was unable to send them away for reasons of courtesy.

In many cases politicians and their families who got charged for failing to practice social distancing measures were slapped with light fines. Ordinary citizens, in contrast got maximum penalty fines and even jail time.

This prompted the Malaysian Bar to issue a statement about the ‘disparity in sentencing’:

The Malaysian Bar is disturbed by accounts of excessive sentences and cases of disparity in sentencing between ordinary people and those with influence, in relation to persons who have violated the MCO.

We acknowledge that the range of sentences handed down may well be within the ambit of the law, but the power of the Court to hand down sentences must be exercised judiciously in order to avoid any travesty of justice.

Philippines: ‘Mañanita’, not a birthday party’

The Philippines is cited by the U.N. Human Rights Office as another country that relied on a “highly militarized response” to deal with the pandemic. More than 120,000 people have been arrested for curfew and quarantine transgressions. Checkpoint security measures have led to numerous human rights violations.

But the government’s credibility in enforcing the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) guidelines suffered a tremendous blow after it was reported that Major General Debold Sinas, the director of the National Capital Region Police Office, benefited from a birthday bash organized by subordinates.

Sinas insisted that there was no birthday party but only a ‘Mañanita’ — a police tradition that features an early morning serenade for the chief. But the public backlash forced him to issue an apology.

Critics pointed out that Sinas and his team have enthusiastically arrested activists and community workers organizing relief activities during the lockdown. They blasted the general for holding festivities at a time when millions have lost jobs and income due to anti-pandemic measures.

Sinas was later charged for violating ECQ rules but has so far managed to retain his position. His case is still pending in the court.

A retired military officer, Ramon Farolan, advised Sinas to step down:

Your apology would take on greater meaning if you step down from your position. Accept that you made a poor judgment call, showing insensitivity to the plight of our less fortunate. Don’t wait for higher authorities to decide your case.

Myanmar: Religious event or pagoda renovation?

In Myanmar, Yangon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein and Naing Ngan Lin, chairman of the COVID-19 Control and Emergency Response Committee, are both accused of breaking the law by attending a Botataung Pagoda festival while the country is observing a ban on religious gatherings.

Photos uploaded on the chief minister’s Facebook page showed dozens of individuals congregating at a riverside site to observe a Buddhist rite.

Social media reactions focused on the clear breach of government guidelines, which include a prohibition on gatherings of four or more people.

Phyo Min Thein denied that the activity was a ceremony, insisting instead that it was a pagoda renovation and that the other people in the photographs were mere onlookers.

Many commented that while the government has been consistent in jailing Muslims and Christians for holding religious activities during lockdown restrictions, it has been less decisive in probing activities connected to Buddhism — the country’s most widely observed religion.

Kyaw Phyo Tha, news editor of the English edition of The Irrawaddy, criticized the chief minister’s actions:

Whatever the case, the chief minister’s actions were unacceptable. They have put the Union government in an awkward position, as its orders have been undermined by a senior official. Due to U Phyo Min Thein’s shortsightedness, Myanmar will have to pay the price internationally by being accused of religious discrimination.

Phyo Min Thein may yet pay for his lockdown scandal — a growing number of Yangon regional legislators are seeking to file an impeachment case against him for breaking the rules. #

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

Paano aalagaan ang mental health ngayong COVID lockdown?

Sa panahon ngayon, importante ang social connection at psycho-social support sa bawat isa. Ok tayo sa pisikal na distancing pero tuloy dapat ang social connection. Sa social connection papasok ang pagtutulungan ng bawat miyembro ng pamilya para matagalan ang ECQ. Ito ang panahon ng family bonding.

Ni Dr. Reggie Pamugas/Panayam ni Raymund B. Villanueva

Sinasabi ng mga eksperto sa mundo na nagiging pandemya na rin sa mental health ang krisis na dulot ng coronavirus na pinalalala ng kwarantina at mga lockdown na nag-uutos sa mga tao na manatili na lamang muna sa loob ng bahay. Dahil mahigit nang dalawang buwan ang lockdown sa mga bansa katulad ng sa Pilipinas, marami na marahil ang nakakaranas ng psychological stress dulot ng pagkakakulong, kawalan ng interaksyon sa mga dating nakakasalamuha at kawalan ng kasiguruhan sa hanapbuhay at ikabubuhay.

Kinapanayam ng Kodao ang isa sa pinaka-aktibong sikolohista na nagbibigay-tulong sa mga pamayanang nakararanas ng matinding psychological stress. Siya marahil ang pinaka-aktibong tumulong sa mga pamayanan sa Silangang Bisayas matapos ang super-bagyong Yolanda. Siya rin ang nagbibigay-tulong sa mga taong may psychological stress dahil sa kanilang trabaho, tulad ng mga mamamahayag.

Yuris Alhumaydy

1. Ano ang mental health?

Ang kalusugang pangkaisipan o mental health, ayon sa World Health Organization ay isang kalagayan ng kagalingan kung saan ang isang tao ay maalam sa kanyang abilidad, kayang umagapay sa pangkaraniwang stress ng buhay, nakakapag-trabaho ng maayos, at nakakapag-ambag sa kanyang pamayanan.

Ang sakit sa pag-iisip o mental illnesses naman ay isang kondisyong pangkalusugan na nakakakitaan ng pagbabago-bago sa emosyon, pag-iisip o pag-uugali o kumbinasyon ng mga ito. Dulot ito ng distress o mga suliraning nagmumula sa sosyal, trabaho, o relasyon at aktibidad sa pamilya. Ito naman ay ayon sa American Psychiatric Association.

2.  Ano ang dulot ng lockdown na ito sa mental health ng karaniwang mamamayan, partikular sa tila walang malinaw na plano hinggil sa kabuhayan, pagkain, transportasyon ng mga kailangan pa ring lumabas bilang frontliners o manggagawa o arawan lamang ang kita?

Malaki ang epekto ng lockdown sa mental health ng tao. Ang tao ay social beings, kaya nung pinatupad ung social distancing na kasama sa ECQ, medyo nahirapan ung mga tao. Karamihan ay nakaramdam ngstress, nerbyos, pag-alala, kahirapan sa pagtulog, at iba pa dahil sa isip na walang kasiguraduhan at ang pagbabago ng situation (pandemic na). At dahil first time itong naranasan ng karamihan ng Pilipino, marami talaga ang kinakabahan at na-apektuhan ang kanila at ating mental health. Ang nakadagdag pa sa problema ay hindi malinaw na guidelines o plano mula sa ating gobyerno o pa-iba-iba ang sinasabi ng gobyerno at kulang ng information dissemination sa mga tao at komunidad.

3. Paano nakaka-apekto ang lockdown na ito sa mental health ng karaniwang mamamayan sa pagmamalabis sa implementasyon nito ng mga taong-gubyerno, tulad ng pagbibilad sa mga violators daw sa quarantine, pananakit sa iba, pamamahiya, at iba pang banta sa kanila?

Sa mga taong may otoridad (pulis at military o barangay tanod) lalong dumarami ang pang-aabuso sa  kapangyarihan. Dahil ang training nila ay security response at hindi medikal o matinding pag-unawa sa kapwa. Kaya, madalas, labis na implentasyon o paglabag sa karapatang pantao ang ginagawa nila. Iba ang perspective ng nagpapatupad/ LGU/ national government kumpara sa mamamayan. May covid19 pandemic man o wala, basta may paglabag sa karapantang pantao, itoy nakaka-apekto sa isipan ng tao. Isa itong traumatic experience sa kanya na hindi nya makakalimutan at pwedeng magdulot sa sakit sa isipan. Nakakalungkot lang isipin na kahit sa panahon ng covid19 ay may pangyayaring pang-aabuso pa rin sa kapwa Pilipino sa halip ng compassion, pag-unawa at pagpapasensya.

4. Ano ang dulot ng lockdown na ito sa mental health ng karaniwang mamamayan matapos nilang malaman na ang mga taong may pribilehiyo tulad nina Senador Koko Pimental ay nakakaikot pa sa mga lugar at may mga wala namang sintomas at hindi  frontliner ay nauuna sa Covid-19 testing?

Minsan nahahati ang reaksyon ng mga tao dahil sa pag-iisip na opisyal sila ng gobyerno kaya may pribilehiyo sila. Pero karamihan ng mga tao ay nagagalit sa mga pag-aabuso ng mga gobyernong opisyal. Sa panahon ng covid19, dapat may role model o responsableng tao/opisyal na sinosunod ang mamamayan para may kaayusan. Pero hindi ito nangyayari. Kapag hindi matino ang isang leader o gobyernong opisyal, magulo ang resulta. Korapsyon at pang-aabuso sa kapangyarihan ang nangyayari.

5. Ano ang dulot ng lockdown na ito sa mental health ng mamayan kung bawas ang impormasyong natatanggap nila dahil sa limitasyong imposed sa mga alagad ng media?

Kapag kulang ang impormasyon na nakukuha ang mamamayan dahil sa limitasyon ng media ay lalong nagdudulot ito ng pangamba, takot, nerbyos sa mga tao. Ang dagdag problema pa ay dumadami ang mga fake news na lalong nakakalito sa mamamayan.

Photo by Jinky Mendoza/Kodao

6. Ano ang dulot ng lockdown na ito sa mental health ng mamamayan kung naglipana ang fake news, pati na rin ang galing mismo sa pamahalaan?

Hindi nakakatulong yung paglaganap ng fake news sa ating bansa. Ang mga tao sa panahon ng krisis ay umaasa sa tulong ng ating gobyerno. Kapag nalilito ang tao dahil sa fake news lalo sa panahon ng krisis, lalo silang matatakot at magpa-panic. Pwede rin itong magdulot ng away sa kapwa tao.

7. Ano ang dulot ng lockdown sa mental health ng mamamayan kung walang malinaw na impormasyon kung matagumpay ba o hindi ang ginagawa ng pamahalaan upang tugunan ang krisis, kung kailan ba matatapos ang lockdown, at kung ano ang plano matapos ang ilang buwang community quarantine?

Kung walang malinaw na impormasyon sa plano kung paano sugpuin ang covid19 o hanggang kalian ‘yung lockdown, lalong maging nerbyoso, magpa-panic o matatakot ang mag tao. Kaya ang iba ay hindi sumusunod sa ECQ/ quarantine, maliban pa sa rason na ekonomiko dahil hindi malinaw ang impormasyon tungkol sa covid19 o plano sa pagsugpo nito.

8. Bakit mahalaga na pangalagaan ang mental health ng mamamayang isinasailalalim sa community quarantine, lalo na yung mga nasa isolation, forced o voluntary?

Mahalagang mapangalagaan ang mental health sa panahon ng ECQ para hindi magkasakit sa isipan. Ang tao ay sociable creature by nature kaya nakakapanibago itong isolation or ECQ sa mga tao. Natatakot, kinakabahan o pwedeng magkaroon ng pagduda sa ibang tao kapag nagkaroon ng matagal na isolation.

Photo from Burbank

9. Paano pangangalagaan ang mental health ng mga nasa lockdown at quarantine? Paano magtutulungan ang mga miyembro ng pamilya upang matagalan itong community quarantine ng pamahalaan?

Mahalaga na mapangalagaan ang ating mental health sa panahon ng lockdown. Sa individual pwede niyang gawin ang ABC ng Mental Health Care.

Ung “A” ay awareness. Self-awareness at situational awareness. Dapat kilala mo sarili mo, ang inyong kalakasan at iyong pwede pang ayusin. Dapat well-informed ka din sa mga balita. Pero mag-ingat iyong mga vulnerable sa isip, yung mga madaling mag-alala.

Yung “B” ay balance. I-balanse ang ang buhay mo sa trabaho at sa pamilya mo. Dapat ay may regular sleep pa din, may hobbies, doing work (work from home), doing exercises. Pwedeng gumawa ng schedule for a day o daily routine ng isang linggo na pwede sundan.

Ung “C” ay connection. Sa panahon ngayon, importante ang social connection at psychosocial support sa bawat isa. Ok tayo sa pisikal na distancing pero tuloy dapat ang social connection. Sa social connection papasok ang pagtutulungan ng bawat miyembro ng pamilya para matagalan ang ECQ. Ito ang panahon ng family bonding. Family can do games, teamwork in household chores, at iba pa. Sa mga magulang, sana at dapat kalmado lang ang ipinapakita nila sa anak nila, dahil nakikita at naramdaman ng kanilang anak ang kanilang kilos at reaksyon sa sitwasyon. Ipaliwanag sa anak ang nangyayari sa lebel ng kaalaman nila. Huwag sanang takutin ang mga bata sa covid19. Sa mga anak/bata, gumawa ng mga nakakatuwa or interesadong aktibidad na makatulong pag-alis ng boredom.

10. Paano mabawasan ang takot at agam-agam ng mamamayan sa lumalala pa ring pandemic na ito?

Normal matakot sa panahon ng covid19 pandemic. Pero dahil sa kakulangan ng impormasyon sa mamamayan o walang malinaw na direksyon o guidelines galing sa LGU o national government ay lalong natatakot at naging nerbiyos ang mga tao. Para mabawasan ang anumang takot at agam-agam ng mamamayan ay kailangan nilang i-practice ang ABC ng mental health/ kalusugang pangkaisipan. Pwedeng palakasin ang community care/ bayanihan din sa bawat komunidad. Ito rin ang panahon ng social solidarity, pagtutulungan sa kapwa PiIipino. Sa mamamayan na miyembro ng organisasyon, ang  tiwala, tulong, at lakas galing sa mga kinabibilangang organisasyon ay makakatulong din sa kanila. (Organizational care)

Kuha ni Jola Diones-Mamangun/Kodao

11. Ano ang panukalang national mental health program sa mga panahong tulad nito at pagkatapos?

Kahit mayroong national mental health program ang ating gobyerno, ito ay hindi nakatuon sa panahon ng covid19 pandemic. Ang pagdating ng covid19 ay hindi inaasahan ng mga tao. Pero nakikita at na-obserbahan natin na may epekto ang covid19 sa mental health ng bawat Pilipino. Kaya dapat ay importanteng maipatupad ng ating gobyerno ang mental health program sa panahon ng covid19 pandemic at kahit pagkatapos nito.

Ang national mental health program ng gobyerno ay merong promotive, preventive, treatment and rehabilitative services component. Integrated sa ibat- ibang settings sa paggamot mula sa komunidad hanggang sa pasilidad, implemented from the national to the barangay level.

Ang mga program na kalakip nito ay:

1. Wellness of Daily Living sa eskwela, trabaho at iba pang programa

2. Extreme Life Experience- pagbibigay ng psychosocial support sa personal and community wide disasters

3. Mental Disorder

4. Neurologic Disorders

5. Substance Abuse and other Forms of Addiction

Dapat ay tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang pagbibigay serbisyong mental health at psychosocial support sa lahat ng mga Pilipino sa panahon ng covid19 pandemic. Sa panahon ng ECQ mas kawawa ang mga taong may sakit sa isipan at yung iba pang may kapansanan. Paano ang access nila sa mental health care provider at sa gamot kung sarado ang mga hospital na tumitingin sa kanila dahil naka-pokus lang tayo sa covid19. Sana holistic care pa rin. #

Gov’t should deliver cash subsidies it owes 3.8M poor families in GCQ areas

by IBON Media

The government announced that it will ‘reprioritize’ social amelioration to only the areas retained under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and will ‘discontinue’ in declared general community quarantine (GCQ) areas.

But research group IBON said that some 3.8 million* vulnerable families still without assistance are at risk of slipping into deeper poverty should the government make the shift.

The group said that government should be sensitive to the plight of all still un-served and now struggling beneficiaries by making good on its promise to immediately distribute emergency subsidies.

The Duterte administration declared that the extended ECQ – previously set to end on April 30 – will be again extended to May 15 in areas classified as “high risk”.

The areas observed to still have many COVID-19 cases are Benguet, Pangasinan, Central Luzon except Aurora, Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Cebu, Ilo-ilo, Bacolod City, and Davao City.

The rest of the country – considered “low risk” and “moderate risk” areas – will be under a GCQ. Face masks and physical distancing will still be required, but work and transportation are expected to re-operate under more relaxed quarantine.  

IBON observed that despite Pres. Duterte being granted emergency powers by Congress, promised financial assistance has not been expediently delivered to the targeted 18 million poor families affected by the Luzon-wide ECQ.

Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) secretary Rolando Bautista said that GCQ areas will no longer receive cash subsidies due to limited social amelioration program (SAP) resources as per National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) recommendation. 

Though the DSWD recently clarified that beneficiaries in the GCQ areas will still receive the first tranche of subsidies, IBON said that overall, government should stop making excuses on top of a huge SAP backlog.

The group said that government should provide humane and compassionate response and it can start by immediately dissolving all bureaucratic hurdles to deliver promised cash assistance to the millions of unserved beneficiaries including those in GCQ areas.

Relaxing activities in areas previously locked down does not offset the six-week impact of the ECQ on the incomes and livelihoods of the most vulnerable families, said the group.

Based on DSWD data, IBON noted, some 1.3 million beneficiaries or one of three target SAP beneficiaries in Luzon GCQ areas alone remain unserved as of April 29.

Meanwhile, 8.4 million households across the country are reported to have not yet received any emergency assistance.

Of these, 4.6 million households are in the retained ECQ areas and the remainder 3.8 million households are under the downgraded GCQ areas by May 1.

Also, some Php50.3 billion in SAP funds have yet to be paid out nationally, Php19 billion of which is for GCQ areas. 

IBON hit government’s indifference to the plight of the poor. The group observed that government was able to afford a one-and-a-half-month delay in emergency aid to its poorest constituents and is now deciding to even ration it.

On the other hand, the government guarantees resources for business-inclined Build, Build, Build infrastructure program and prompt debt servicing.

This is only exposing the Duterte administration’s inclination to scrimp on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable in order to survive COVID-19’s impact while saving the economy for big business.

The delayed response and the move now to even get away with it has only highlighted that the Duterte administration’s approach has only been militaristic more than humanitarian, IBON said.

The nation’s chance to survive the health crisis and the deterioration of the country’s economic crisis as aftermath is even compounded by the need to surpass such callous governance. #

* DSWD SAP data was noted for national, ECQ areas (based on announcement by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on April 30, 2020). Nationwide GCQ data for unserved beneficiaries was derived by subtracting ECQ areas data for unserved beneficiaries from national data for unserved beneficiaries.

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

On 7th week of lockdown: 10M worker and informal earner households still waiting for emergency subsidies

by IBON Media

A month-and-a-half into lockdown, millions of workers and informal earners grapple in uncertainty as the government’s social amelioration program (SAP) and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) aid are failing to reach them, said research group IBON.

Six-out-of-ten or majority of government’s targeted beneficiary households have still not received the promised emergency subsidies while funding for DOLE assistance programs has run out. The sluggish response and lack of funds highlights the State’s continued indifference, said the group.

IBON said that the sorry state of emergency relief shows how even the granting of emergency powers to the president has failed to swiftly deliver promised aid to the 18 million poorest households. This includes millions of workers in the formal and informal sectors who lost incomes and livelihoods under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

The latest Department of Social Welfare (DSWD) data shows only 8.1 million SAP beneficiaries were assisted, which means that 9.9 million, or a glaring 55% of the target 18 million low-income households, still await emergency cash aid into the seventh week of lockdown.

IBON said that aid is long overdue for millions, and that the 8.1 million households helped should also be getting their second tranche of subsidies already due to the lockdown extension.

The government’s other assistance programs do not add much more.

As of April 26, DOLE reported giving cash aid to only 345,865 workers, which is just 3.2% of 10.7 million workers estimated by IBON.

Meanwhile, only 259,449 informal workers benefited from DOLE’s cash-for-work program which is just 5% of 5.2 million informal workers.

Only 40,418 PUV and TNVS drivers have received emergency subsidies – with no new recipients in the last two weeks.

The DOLE also reported that just 49,040 affected overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been approved to receive Php10,000 cash assistance out of the 233,015 that have so far applied, as of April 26.

The department said that the number of OFWs requesting aid exceeds the 150,000 targeted by the government. The Php1.5 billion funds under the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program for this will not be enough to cover all OFWs needing assistance.

IBON also noted that to date, only 354,875 rice farmers or just 3.7% of the country’s 9.7 million farmers, farm workers and fisherfolk have been given cash assistance by the Department of Agriculture.

Meanwhile, only 6,403 employers have been able to apply for assistance on behalf of 130,188 employees under the Department of Finance’s Small Business Wage Subsidy program.

This is just 3.8% of the 3.4 million small business employee target, and actual payout will only start on May 1.

The poorest Filipinos continue to go hungry and fend for themselves amid over-delayed social amelioration, said IBON.

To make matters worse, the Duterte administration has announced that low-income households living in areas where the ECQ has been lifted will no longer receive emergency subsidies.

IBON said with no other means to help compensate for their lost wages and incomes due to weeks under lockdown, many vulnerable families will be pushed into deeper poverty.

IBON said each week under lockdown further exposes the Duterte administration’s pro-big business and militaristic approach in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If it continues to ignore the humanitarian crisis and not genuinely and substantially address the socioeconomic needs of affected Filipinos, many more will go hungry, human rights violations will rise and there will be even more unrest. #

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

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.

Beyond late night pep talks

By Renato Reyes, Jr.

The government tries hard to convince us that we are doing fine compared to the rest of the world despite the widespread complaints and sufferings of the people who are under lockdown due to the corona virus disease (Covid-19).

The Philippines has had to resort to extreme quarantine measures precisely because of the failure of the Duterte regime to impose travel restrictions, do proper contact tracing, and recognize in a timely manner the local transmission that had been ongoing in the country. Don’t tell us we are better off. We are in this difficult situation because government downplayed many of the red flags early on. Remember that time when a patient from Greenhills with no travel history was infected with the virus, and health secretary Francisco Duque said that’s not local transmission because it’s just one person?

The people want the spread of the disease to stop through the necessary health measures such as community quarantine, mass testing, isolation and treatment of patients. The expanded quarantine has become necessary to slow down the spread of the disease given that our health system cannot cope with the rise of new cases. Slowing down the spread of the disease entails stopping the movement of people, especially when we do not yet have a clear picture of the extent of the infections. A University of the Philippines study projects that as many as 140,000 to 550,000 can be infected especially in densely populated urban poor communities.

Lifting the quarantine will be done based on two factors according to the DOH: lower number of new cases and the increased capacity of the health system to treat patients (enough hospital beds, respirators, doctors). The lifting may not be done abruptly because of the dangers of the virus infecting more people. This may require calibrated or gradual lifting of quarantine measures or lockdown. Some areas may take more time because they have a high incidence of infections.

What will prolong the lockdown is the failure of the government to implement the necessary health measures to confront the pandemic. What will prolong the lockdown is the failure of government to implement the needed economic support for the people. A hungry populace will not stay put and will break quarantine protocols, and will be more vulnerable to sickness. Kaya talagang mahigpit na magka-ugnay yung health at economics.

And if the lockdown is lifted, we have to fix major issues in the workplace, housing, sanitation, mass transportation, education and so on. We cannot just return to the way things were — with gross inequality and government neglect of social services laying the basis for more infections. The first thing we will be demanding after the lockdown is lifted is CHANGE. We do not want to go back to the way things were.

Those telling us we are doing fine are the ones that got us into this dire situation in the first place. They best heed the growing demands of the people and undertake the needed health and economic measures, else we will be looking at a longer lockdown period and more suffering and unrest among the population. Kaya na lang ganoon kadiin ang protesta at pagpapahayag sa gobyerno. Ayaw nating dumami ang tatamaan ng sakit, at ayaw nating humaba pa ang pagdurusa ng mamamayan. #


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

Ilang manggagawa nastranded pauwi sa kanilang tahanan

Naglabas ng hinaing ang ilan sa mga kababayan natin na hindi pinayagang makatawid at makauwi sa kanilang mga tahanan noong umaga ng Marso 18 sa boundary ng Pasig City at Cainta sa Rizal. Ito ay matapos ipatupad noong Marso 15 ang Luzon-wide lockdown, sanhi ng CoViD-19, na tatagal hanggang Abril 12

Giit ng mga pulis, tanging mga taga-Cainta lamang ang maaring dumaan sa checkpoint at inaantay pa ang abiso mula sa Malacanang kung sila ay padadaanin. Sinabi pa nila na humanap na lamang ng ibang daanan ang hindi mga taga-Cainta bagay na ikinagalit ng ilan sa mga kababayan natin na halos araw-araw ay dumadaan sa nasabing ruta mula sa kanilang mga trabaho.

Joseph Cuevas/Kodao