Looking back onto the imposed lockdown across the Luzon-wide cities and provinces of the country due to the coronavirus disease pandemic last year, such adverse impacts brought by the health crisis have been worsened with various socio-economic issues endured by different sectors.

To reiterate, the heed for “Solusyong Medikal hindi Militar” effort remain unheard, if not fell on actual deaf ears of the current administration.

Not only the Philippines is categorized for the world’s longest lockdown, but it has also been the strictest and ‘bloody’ in depiction.

On March 16, 2020, more than 53 million people in Luzon including12 to 15 million residents of the capital region perplexed over the implementation of a militaristic lockdown, many referred to as a de facto martial law, instead of addressing it as a public health measure.

Case in point, it is evident that many have witnessed the shrinking space of democracy amid the continuing state corruption, poverty, hunger, unemployment, and rampant human rights violations in the face of the global pandemic.

As a matter of fact, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet dubbed the Philippine lockdown as a “highly militarised response” and that the Duterte government’s vested emergency powers “should not be a weapon (that) can wield to quash dissent, control the population, and even perpetuate their time in power”.

Enough is enough

In Metro Manila, a youth-led indignation protest was ignited in front of the Philippine General Hospital to condemn the Duterte administration of its misprioritization to somewhat ‘curb’ the spread of COVID-19.

“Hindi kailangan ng mamamayang Pilipino mabantayan ang military ni Duterte. Ang pagdadahas na siyang tungkulin ng military at kapulisan ay walang kinalaman sa usapin ng COVID-19,” said Youth Movement Against Tyranny spokesperson Andrea Trinidad in a statement.

Trinidad emphasized that the government’s responsibility is to conduct mass testing, contact tracing, and isolation along with providing vaccine, economic subsidy, food, shelter, and education.

“Tama na! Sobra na! Marapat lamang na panagutin si Duterte sa kanyang kapalpakan, kapabayaan, at karahasan!” Trinidad assailed.

A harrowing story of injustice

More than 15,000 frontline health workers have been infected by the virus, claiming at least 800 deaths, affirmed by Dr. Leni Jara.

Dr. Leni is the wife of Dr. Raul Jara who are among the first health workers died due to the COVID-19.

“Hanggang ngayon ay patuloy pa rin ang mga frontliners. Marami sa kanila ang naka-confine. Marami sa kanila ang isang taong nag-alaga. Marami sa kanila ang humiling ng PPE na ngayon pinagbabayad pa sila sa Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRRMMC)” Dr. Leni asserted, adding her firm condemnation against the anti-health worker protocols of the Department of Health (DOH). 

She added that the government’s response is a harrowing story of injustice more than it intends to spark frustration and anger.

“Kailangan talaga natin ilabas kung anong nararamdaman ng taumbayan. Sa katunayan, noong dumating ang bakuna ay hindi pa rin maganda ang roll-out natin. Hindi natin ito maramdaman,”

On Tuesday, the government announced that it had vaccinated 215,997 Filipinos against COVID-19. Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. once claimed that the government aims to vaccinate around 70 million of Filipinos in three to five years.

Of the total vaccinated individuals that is only 0.31% or at least 15,428 individuals vaccinated since the rollout.

Currently, there are 1,125,600 doses as vaccination drive began on March 1 with 600,000 Sinovac shots donated by China and another initial 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine were also received through the COVAX facility.

The vaccine czar also noted that 1.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, in composition of 1 million doses of procured CoronaVac and another 400,000 doses donated by the Chinese government, are to arrive in the country this March.

Mamamatay sa gutom, mamamatay sa aktwal

 “Para lang tayong naglalakad nang paikot-ikot” said PISTON secretary general Steve Ranjo.

“Inalisan kami ng biyahe, ng ruta. inaangkin ang aming prangkisa. Pinapatay sa gutom at kawalan ng kabuhayan ang ating mga drayber at operator. Pinapahirapan ang frontline workers, mga manggagawa dahil nga tinatanggal na ang mga pangunanhin at abot-kayang pampublikong transportasyon,” Ranjo emphasized.

The group of jeepney drivers lamented that the government is not only killing many Filipinos of hunger and starvation but also killing in actuality. Ranjo recalled the heinous massacre among nine activists in Southern Tagalog which included Bayan Cavite coordinatior Manny Asuncion.

“Ang tinaguriang bloody Sunday ay noon pa man nangyayari na sa Iloilo, nangyayari sa Negros, nangyayari sa Samar, nangyayari sa Southern tagalog, isang hakbang nalang Metro Manila na isasagawa ang karumaldumal na krimen na iyan,” he scored.

According to Ranjo, Asuncion had long been a supporter for the call of transport groups to allow public utility vehicles, especially jeepneys to operate as well as the campaign to lambast the jeepney phaseout plan of the government.  

“May bago pa silang iskema na pati ang limang taong prangkisa ng ating mga operator ay gagawin nalang isang taon para sumunod tayo sa kanilang pekeng modernisasyon,” Ranjo added.

Foul and faulty

On Monday, President Duterte ordered for Filipinos to not despair, sending off his usual ‘kaya natin ito’ mantra and that we can always trust his governance.

“I will just say to my countrymen that do not despair, kaya natin ito. Maliit na bagay ito (COVID-19) sa buhay natin. Marami tayong pinagdaanan na mas grabe, mas mahirap”.

The president’s statement, once again, has triggered citizens unrest. While the third sentence from his remark isn’t really wrong given how foul and faulty his administration was, said by group of protesters.

BAYAN secretary general Renato Reyes then posed a question to ponder: “Paano magiging maliit na bagay ang dinaranas ng milyun-milyong Pilipino ngayon?”

Accordingly, as reported from above, these are among the glaring issues that various sectors have been experiencing throughout the year of pandemic.

“Tuwing tayo ay nagrereklamo at makatwiran naman ang ating mga reklamo; pilit na minamaliit ng administrasyong ito ang ating kalagayan at pilit na binubuhat ang kanilang bangko para papurihan ang kanilang sarili,” Reyes twitted.

He also condemned presidential spokesperson Harry Roque with regard to “excellent response to COVID-19 pandemic” remarks ironic to the spox’ current situation being positive to the virus.

“Kung natatalo natin ang COVID, bakit bumabalik ang curfew sa Metro Manila?” Reyes mused.

Furthermore, he scored the findings of Department of Labor and Employment regarding the country’s unemployment rate which ballooned to 4.5 million. Social Weather Survey (SWS) on the other hand has reported 22 million workers who have lost their jobs and did not receive economic relief from the government during the time of pandemic.

“Nagtala rin ang Pilipinas ng pinakamalaking utang sa kasaysayan. More than P10 trillion ang utang ng Pilipinas.”

To think that the Philippines has procured such outstanding loan, Reyes said “Oh may utang, eh ‘di ibig sabihin may may pera… pero walang ayuda?”

On March 16, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez reported that the country has ‘secured’ a funding need to procure COVID-19 vaccines through another loan investment amounting to $1.2 billion or at least P56.4 billion.

  • World Bank – $500 million
  • Asian Development Bank (ADB) – $400 million
  • Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) – $300 million

Take note, this figure is not yet included from the almost P10 trillion Philippine acquired debt.

Looking back to school

Reyes also assailed the Philippine education in view of the defective and expensive mode through distance learning which has gone for a year. United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) further noted that the country is branded as the “world’s longest time for school closure”.

“COVID is affecting all school systems in the world, but here it is even worse,” said UNICEF-PH education chief Isy Faingold.

UNICEF reported that 168 million children globally have been completely closed for almost an entire year due to COVID-19 lockdowns, and around 214 million children globally – or one in seven – have “missed more than three-quarters” of their physical classes learning.

“Maraming estudyante ang huminto sa pag-aaral dahil sa kawalan ng magagamit na device, kawalan ng internet connection na para sa online class, at ang hindi epektibong pagkakatuto ng mga kabataan. Labis din na naapektuhan ang mental health ng mga estudyante na ang ilan ay humantong sa kamatayan,” said Kabataan Partylist Metro Manila member Alwen Jay Santos.

Santos criticized the Duterte government’s response to COVID-19, given that the the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), the government’s COVID-19 response policy making body, has allowed several tourist spots to reopen, including Boracay, Tagaytay, Baguio, Bohol, Siargao, Enchanted Kingdom, and other malls; totally disregarding the need for in-person classes.

“Sa laki ng inutang ni Duterte ay walang naisagawang mass testing na siyang kinakailangan sa pagbubukas muli ng mga paaralan. Sa laki ng inutang ni Duterte ayaw niyang gastusan ang mga kailangan para sa proper health protocols ng bawat paaralan at mas nagpokus pa siya sa militarismong tugon niya sa pandemya,” Santos added.

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