English translation of Tagalog original
ASK PROF TOPIC: Covid-19
March 16, 2020
Prof.Sarah Raymundo (SR) as Interviewer and Prof. Jose Maria Sison (JMS) as Interviewee.
SR- Intro: Greetings to our audience. May we remain safe and well disposed amidst the health crisis brought about by the new corona virus disease that appeared in 2019 oe Covid-19. In recent days, we have witnessed and experienced the declaration of Covid-19 as a global pandemic, meaning it is spreading to many countries around the entire world. One of the more immediate concerns is the response of the Duterte government to this. Many are not reached by government aid or almost no aid and information about Covid-19.
We deem it necessary here at Itanong Mo kay Prof (Ask the Prof) especially to have with us again, especially our beloved listeners in the rural areas and urban-poor areas who have to remain at work in the face of Covid-19. For isn’t it that if we did not venture out and work, there is no Duterte government that supports us amidst the disaster we face?
We will talk about and understand what is happening around us and around the whole world, including some steps we can take to help each other. As always, we have here with us on Ask the Prof the Chairperson Emeritus of the International League ofPeoples’ Struggle and National Democratic Front of the Philippines Chief Political Consultant, Prof. Jose Maria Sison.
How are you, Prof?
JMS: Militant patriotic greetings to you, Prof. Sarah Raymundo and to all our compatriots.
SR1: Prof. Sison, can you explain to our listeners what is this corona virus or Covid-19.
JMS: The Covid-19 is a kind of virus that causes illness that manifested itself in Wuhan, China in December 2019. This was published as an epidemic in Wuhan in January 2020. The major symptoms are: fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. This leads to pneumonia which could then lead to death for two to five percent of those sick with Covid-19.
This virus is very contagious to people through physical contact and touching things touched by those who are infected . The most vulnerable are the elderly and those with prior illness of the lungs. The epidemic spreads easily in a country as in China. And because of travelers who carry the disease, the virus has spread to many countries and it has now become a pandemic or an epidemic in many countries.
Among the countries with the pandemic Covid-19 are China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain and others. In the Philippines, people became aware of the virus in January when when the man of an elderly Chinese tourist couple died from the virus. Some Filipino doctors who treated them got infected.
SR2: A number of countries are affected by the spread of Covid-19. Even now as we discuss this virus in our program, 12 have already died and 140 are infected in the Philippines. The response of the Duterte government is lockdown. He ordered an Enhanced Community Quarantine to all residents, not only in the National Capital Region, but throughout Luzon. What is meant by Enhanced Community Quarantine? And what can you say about this, Prof. Sison?
JMS: It is the fault of Duterte and his whole regime that Covid-19 has spread throughout the Philippines above the reported official number. In the second week of January, the World Health Organization had already issued an alert on the Covid-19 epidemic in Wuhan, China. But Duterte still allowed the entry into the Philippines of travelers from China: more than 14,000 from Wuhan and 500,000 from the whole of China. His reasoning was the need for income from the Chinese tourists and from the so-called POGOs or Chinese casinos.
The lockdown on the national capital region imposed by Duterte is a militarist and fascist madness. A large number of military and police personnel are being deployed to intercept people at many checkpoints. They harass each one to present an ID and some pretend to use a thermal scanner on a person’s forehead. What is worst is that they gather together both the healthy and those possibly infected. People’s livelihood is disrupted and Covid-19 spread further because those carrying the disease are mixed with those who are not sick.
More terrible is the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) that covers the whole of Luzon. Train, bus, jeepney, taxi, SUV, P2P bus, motorcycle and taxis are not allowed to operate. Thus the people are prevented from going to to their work. The economy, factories and services are dead. The worst is that those sick with Covid-19 or any serious ailments can’t reach the hospitals and clinics. Even doctors, nurses and medical supply find difficulty in reaching the hospitals, clinics or health centers.
The interception by Duterte’s armed lackeysof healthy people, health professionals and sick people is utter stupidity. They use Covid-19 as an excuse to harass and intimidate the people. Worse than the Covid-19 is the Duterte virus. In fact, the Duterte virus has killed more than 30,000 since 2016. In comparison to the Duterte virus, Covid-19 has killed only a few.
SR 3: In the first day of checkpoints earlier put up by police and soldiers, there was a long queue and traffic. Many were angered because many commuters were late for work. What is the right thing for those many coming from neighboring provinces but working in Metro Manila, Prof. Sison?
JMS: The solution to Covid-19 should be medical, not military. At the very start, doctors, nurses, health assistants, face masks, personal protection equipment, thermal scanner, testing kits, oxygen tanks, medicines and bed space for the patients in serious conditions in quarantine centers should have been deployed from the level of communities. Testing and treatment should be free. This was done in China, Vietnam, South Korea and other countries.
Thus, the sick is separated and the healthy can travel freely to get to their places of work. Forbidding healthy people to travel is wrong. They suffer from hunger because they have no income. And the economy will collapse. It is most unfortunate for sick people not to be able to go to a hospital, clinic or health center. Or put them together in military and police checkpoints with people who are not sick.
SR4: According to the Alliance of Health Workers or AHW, health workers and doctors lack the proper equipment for monitoring patients with Covid-19. Face masks are almost nonexistent or used for three days instead of just a few hours a day. Because of the budget cuts to health, the health workers’ situation is getting worse. What can you say about this, Prof. Sison?
JMS: What the Alliance of Health Workers or AHW says is true: health workers and doctors lack the proper equipment for the monitoring and testing of patients possibly infected with Covid-19. Even face masks are scarce and if available, these are used for days instead of just hours. Worse still is that there are not enough public health workers and medical equipment available to attend to those found positive with the COVID-19.
The root cause of the lack of preparation and adequate public health personnel and equipment is military overspending and corruption. The Department of Health budget was cut by 14 billion pesos, as were those for public education and other social services to boost the budgets for the president’s office, the military and their equipment, intelligence and discretionary funds and the pork barrel to feed the greed of the Duterte’s family, cronies and congressmen.
SR5: In the speech of President Duterte earlier today, Prof. Sison, he asked for a ceasefire with the New People’s Army. A ceasefire from both sides while we are facing this situation. What is your opinion on this request of Duterte, Prof. Sison?
JMS: It’s hard to believe he was sincere or serious in asking for a ceasefire with the New People’s Army. Just recently he ordered his military to kill off the NPA and revolutionary movement before the end of his term in 2022. And his deployment of military and police in the cities is not just to solve the Covid-19 issue but to suppress the legal democratic movement and to strengthen his tyranny and so he could choose his successor if ever he became very ill.
The NDFP would only believe that he is truly interested in a ceasefire, with which it can agree once he stops his attack and suppression of the legal democratic forces and the guerrilla fronts of the democratic government of workers and peasants. And if he were to free all political prisoners through general amnesty on humanitarian grounds like the release by the Iranian government of the tens of thousands of political prisoners to avoid being infected by the Covid-19.
SR6: President Duterte also said the police can arrest anyone who violates the law during checkpoint. But according to Atty. Chel Diokno, any person wanting to enter NCR to be able to go work cannot be arrested. What can you say about this?
JMS: Atty. Chel Diokno is correct to say that a person who wants to enter NCR to go to work or anyone sick who should go to the doctor for medical treatment could not be arrested. The order of Duterte to arrest anyone violating the law in checkpoints is threatening and abusive. Ordinary people are naturally respectful. It is malice on Duterte’s part to accuse people they are troublemakers like him.
SR7: Covid-19 erupted in China in December 2019. But it was only in March that the government got alarmed after the victims of Covid-19 were listed. Does the government still have a responsibility in the delay of preparing the Philippines for the entry of Covid-19 in the country?
JMS: As I said before, Duterte and his cohorts in the regime are responsible for the spread of Covid-19 in the Philippines since January. They did not do anything to provide health personnel, resources and equipment to immediately act and prevent the spread of Covid-19. The priority of those in power and corrupt are the negligence of health needs and violation of rights and interests of the people.
SR8: What is your message to our listeners, Prof. Sison? Many of our compatriots are restless as they are concerned not only with the Covid-19 but also with their daily meal.
JMS: The Duterte regime should be held accountable for the entry and spread of Covid-19 in the Philippines and the lack of appropriate policies and mobilizations of health personnel and the people to fight the Covid-19. It is criminal negligence of Duterte. Directly connected to this are the principal interests of Duterte in his being a traitor, tyrant, butcher, thief and swindler.
JMS: The Filipino people must further strenthen their unity and resolve to end the Duterte regime. They should act with more militancy to isolate and shake this regime from root to rafters. The patriotic and democratic movement must be strengthened to overthrow this regime as soon as possible. And to advance the force for full independence, democracy, social justice, all-rounded development and just peace.
Goodbye to Prof. Sarah Raymundo and to all the listeners. I look forward to being with you again in our coming interviews. In these critical conditions in our country, there is always a big issue that we should think about, discuss and act on. Rest assured that I am ready to talk with you on any important issue. Thank you. Long live!
SARAH: Thank you Prof. Joma, we really need more than ever the information of critical analysis of the situation, instead of “just follow” the Duterte routine. More important, is the message of common action based on our anaysis ang unity.
Organize, trust comrades, achieve what is most necessary through our church groups, assosciations, federations, unions and other forms of organizations. Many believe that lockdown or control of people’s movements is one of the solutions to minimize the spread of infection and death fromCovid-19.
But if we had a system deploying its full resources on public health, with sufficient and free testing kits, hospital beds and also hospitals, if public services and government budget were prioritized from from the taxes we pay, the government would be able to satisfy the needs of the people simultaneous with protecting the frontliners, we can also think of more honorable, human, reasonable, effective solutions, other than lockdown.
Who would create such a system but us. Thus being critical of the government at this time aims at contributing to the new system that answers the needs of people, unlike this that nips the freedom and lives of the people amidst a serious .
Thank you for your attention! Heighten your vigilance, take care of our community against Covid-19 and the Duterte fascist regime. END.