A recorded meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) led by President Rodrigo Duterte was aired late night of August 31, 2020. The public address was expected by people wondering whether Metro Manila and other areas would remain under general community quarantine and what lockdown or quarantine protocol would —and at most times, this might be the singular useful thing in the meeting people are after and they could probably sleep after knowing this. Unfortunately, the quarantine protocols always gets recommended in the beginning and announced or approved in the end.
The talk highlighted some updates on the category of lockdown, updates on the development of fighting COVID-19 by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, National Task Force COVID-19 (NTF) Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez, NTF Chair Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Education Secretary Leonor Briones and Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque. The meeting is reminiscent of other meetings, just recounting things they are doing like sharing your daily routines. The meeting was a repetition of them making an impression that the situation is controllable when they’re really just being controlled by the situation.
The meeting did not include the situation and demand of the jeepney drives for 100 percent return of public transportation (balik-pasada), the cry of the retrenched ABS-CBN employees, the cry for justice of the victims of extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations, the demand of the people for a concrete plan for economic recovery, among others.
Instead, the Duterte regime has maintained its mindset of using violence against their perceived “enemies” amid the pandemic.
In that meeting former NBI director Dante Gierran, a lawyer and a Certified Public Accountant, was introduced and given order to clean PhilHealth by abetting violence.
Duterte said, “Kaya sabihin mo ‘pag tawag mo, huwag ka na maraming daldal basta sabihin mo, “p***** i** kayo, magtrabaho kayo, l***** kayo.” Sabi ni — sabihin mo ni Mayor, “Yayariin ko kayo. Gusto niya yariin ko kayo.” Pati iyong diskumpiyado at ayaw, ibigay mo agad pangalan kasi ipa-assign ko dito.”
The meeting was also another meeting to promote Senator Christopher “Bong” Go publicly. Almost every time a Cabinet official speaks, he is mentioned after Duterte—despite being from another co-equal and independent branch of government and seemed to still be acting like the Special Assistant to the President. He is also always seated to Duterte’s right.
Gierran had to mention Go in the brief time he spoke at the start of his new stint, as if Go’s support is essential in his new function?
“And then there is Senator Bong Go, who told me that he will support me. Sabi niya, “Dante, ‘Tol, gusto ko ibalik ang pera sa — ng taong bayan sa kanila. At ‘pag may naimbestigahan ka diyan at saka may mga loko-loko diyan, putulin mo ‘yung kamay nila,” Gierran said.
He again talked of Go as if his appointment came from the Senator, “And Senator Bong Go was telling me, I have to strike a balance between improving the PhilHealth’s services to our people and addressing the perennial issues of deeply rooted corruption in the PhilHealth.”
Go could also be credited for other things. Let us not forget Go’s owning of the Balik Probinsya program—something in place for so long as a way to decongest Metro Manila usually when urban poor are displaced by big ticket development projects or their homes demolished—and it was after then that COVID-19 spread nationwide.
In fairness to Go, government had to first mess up the situation of OFWs and locally stranded individuals before laying claim to an old government program supposedly to speed up sending home the tens to hundreds of thousands who have been stranded for weeks with little or no means.
Duterte, Go, Gierran and Duterte Death Squad whistleblower Edgar Matobato knew each other.
The new Philhealth CEO and president Gierran is a certified Duterte died-hard supporter (DDS) and he was mentioned by Matobato in a September 2016 Senate Justice and Human Rights Committee hearing who testified that “Gierran led the death squad in one of their operations in 2007 where a man was ‘fed to a crocodile.’”
Matobato claimed to be “a member of the infamous Davao Death Squad (DDS).”
He said, “Hindi pa siya (Gierran) director, ordinaryo pa lang na NBI, magkasama na kami. Almost 15 years kami magkasama ni Atty. Gierran. May hinuhuli kami sa Sarangani Province… Doon na namin dinala sa Digos, Davao del Sur.”
[Gierran was not yet a big-timer in NBI when we met. We have known each other for 15 years. We abducted a man from Sarangani Province and brought him to Davao del Sur.]
Gierran denied the alleged killing.
It was the same with the policy of the President to kill people involved in drug trade. In that meeting, Duterte mentioned Jagger (BOC Commissioner Guerrero) who asked fund to purchase firearm.
He said, “Si Jagger kasi tutal mapag-usapan lang naman natin, there were times that he relied more on than sa — relied more on people who were already old hands there. Eh ‘di napasok siya sa — sa bulsa. Sinabi ko sa kanya straight, drug is still flowing inside the country sa Customs. Sabi ko, gusto ko sana sabihin kanina na, ‘di ba naghingi man ‘yan siya ng baril? Sabi ko, “I approved the purchase of firearms and until now wala ka napatay ni isa?” So sabi ko sa kanya, “shape up.”
“Kaya sabi ko sa kanya, sabi ko diretso “ang droga pumapasok pa rin.” Gusto ko pumatay ka diyan ng… Tutal back up-an kita, hindi ka makulong. Basta droga, barilin, patayin mo. Iyan ang usapan eh. Tsk,” he further said.
Even during the report of Briones when she mentioned of family that need attention like the broken family, Duterte expressed his anger.
He said, “This is not… This is not an indictment of the male specie dito. Pero itong p***** i**** Pilipino na ito, they — they just live together without benefit of a marriage, creating a family, maybe a family home. Mga problema nitong mga unggoy na ito kasi because they do not have — they are not beholden, unless those who are really with the conscience kasi wala mang kasal, iniiwanan lang ang mga pamilya. Iyan ang gusto ko talagang patayin.”
“So I want to bring the DDS here pero mahalata eh. Iyan ang gusto kong patayin, napakawalang-hiya. Diyan ako galit sa mga ganoon. Sa totoo lang. Tapos mambugbog pa,” he said.
Ironically, Briones seemed to agree or acquiesce while she was talking about the good behavior of the learners and she wanted to address the problems of violence like suicide and other domestic violence.
Briones said, “Ito ang mas malaking problema para sa amin dahil kung sa suicide, isa pa lang ang aming na-monitor at na-trace talaga namin, na-document. So ‘yung tinatawag natin, Mr. President, na mental resilience ang kailangan, ang challenge.”
She said, “Hindi naman — hindi naman nagsu-suicide ang mga tao araw-araw pero ‘yung anxiety, ‘yung takot at saka ‘yung fears lumalabas kung minsan ‘yung mga behavior na usually not typical of Filipinos na nangangaway, mga relationships nasisira, mga bata lumalaban sa mga parents and so on. Kasama na ‘yung fear sa disease, fear sa walang trabaho, lahat-lahat na ito.”
“Ngayon nag-initiate kami, may program kami na Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services. Talagang right from the beginning, mayroon na kaming programang ganito, Mr. President, na kailangan i-increase ang physical, ang mental health resilience ng ating mga learners, ng ating mga teachers, parents and citizen. Lahat natatakot, lahat anxious, at saka lumalabas ‘yung mga kung minsan hindi magagandang mga behavior,” Briones said.
The ideas of the Secretary of Education or any idea to help the mental health or health of the people remain a great “challenge” when you have a superior who has a mindset of killing people.
Amid the government’s failing response and repetitive assurances that have yet to yield results, not mere management and reporting of large and still increasing number of COVID-19 cases, Duterte changed his tune on the push for ‘revolutionary government’–done in his name by his supporters–to now discuss publicly, not in secret or “sub rosa” as he said. But there is nothing revolutionary in this government–and especially not on National Heroes’ Day when this speech was aired–only increasing fascism and tyranny as he continues to lose grip of the pandemic with the vaccine as his remaining hope and hope from the beginning.
The Filipino people will still wait with patience for two more years in hearing “bad words” from a president who believed that he is popular and untouchable as he mouths profanities and threats of violence as a way to solve problems.