By Jose Maria Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant
March 19, 2020
The Filipino people, their own mass organizations and benign institutions have to take care of public health and welfare, realize mass testing for Covid-19 at the community level and demand that the working people be allowed to go to their workplaces and earn their subsistence and those in need of medical testing and treatment for whatever serious illness to reach the community health centers, clinics and hospitals.
It is brutal for the Duterte regime to use the military and police to ban all forms of public transport, to mass up people at so many trunk lines and checkpoints just to check identification cards, mix up the healthy with possibly the unhealthy persons and order them to return home. What the regime is doing is to compel the impoverished working people to stay at home and starve to death and be unattended by health personnel.
What the people, mass organizations and benign institutions can do is to create health centers with competent health workers at the barangay level to carry out the testing of the people who have symptoms of Covid-19 and other serious illnesses and to facilitate their treatment at the appropriate clinics and hospitals. With health testing being done at the community level, there is no need to ban public transport and prevent workers from going to their work places and the sick from being brought to the clinics and hospitals in conveyances separate from those of the general public.
The Duterte regime cannot be relied upon to look after the health and welfare of the people. In the first place, it is criminally responsible for wilfully allowing the spread of the Covid-19 by letting into the Philippines hundreds of thousands of travellers and casino players from China, including thousands from Wuhan, in the last three months. Despite warnings from international health organizations, the regime has not undertaken adequate preparations against the Covid-19 pandemic but has cut down the budget for public health in favor of military overspending and corruption.
Even now, despite the conspicuously nationwide spread of the Covid-19, the Duterte regime is focused on using it as the pretext for escalating repressive measures, intimidating the people on the streets, misappropriating funds and begging for foreign loans and grants. While banning public transport, the regime is making the false promise that it will bring food and health care to the people while self-quarantined in their homes, shacks or improvised sleeping spaces on the streets and under the bridges.
It is quite obvious and understandable why the National Democratic Front of the Philippines cannot instantly reciprocate the so-called unilateral ceasefire declared by the Duterte regime. There are strong indications that the unilateral ceasefire declaration is insincere and fake and is calculated to counter and split the rapidly growing broad united front of the patriotic and democratic forces that are now holding the regime accountable for its crimes and are demanding its soonest possible ouster.
The NDFP has to weigh carefully whether the Duterte is merely out to divide and rule the people and even make the NDFP complicit with his crimes and lies. It is therefore necessary for the NDFP to require the Duterte regime to repent over the spread of Covid-19, provide the public health personnel and resources to carry out medical testing and treatment for free, allow the free movement of the working people or else require government agencies and private companies to cover the lost income of people through adequate compensation and food deliveries.
But it is difficult or impossible to believe that the Duterte regime can fulfil its promises to take care of the needs of the people for subsistence and health care. It cannot even promptly carry out what is well within its power, such as the public demand for the amnesty and release of all political prisoners who are now in danger of being afflicted by Covid-19. The Iranian and other government have released so many thousands of prisoners in consideration of their high vulnerability to the pandemic.
Duterte himself has publicly asked for ceasefire from the NDFP and expects reciprocation for his so-called ceasefire declaration . But this may be only a trick of psychological warfare to becloud his accountability for the nationwide spread of Covid-19 and other crimes, trap the NDFP into condoning these crimes and becoming complicit and gain more space for unleashing fascist attacks on the people and their patriotic and democratic forces in both urban and rural areas.
In fact, the Duterte regime and its armed minions have not stopped their systematic and gross violations of human rights with impunity under Executive Order 70 and other presidential issuances. According to reliable reports, despite the so-called unilateral ceasefire declaration of the regime, the reactionary military and police continue to engage in state terrorism and red tag, harass, abduct and murder social activists, peace advocates, human rights defenders and other people under the pretext of anti-communism but in furtherance of fascist dictatorship in a semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system. ###