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Bayan Muna Partylist

DUTERTE’S REAL LEGACY: Criminal Neglect at Facing Epidemics and Disasters

in Countercurrent

Pee on Taal volcano, eat ash fall, and slap the (novel corona) virus—these were Pres. Duterte’s responses to the current disasters that Filipinos confront today.
The Taal volcano eruption and the novel corona virus epidemic highlight the ineptness and indifference of the Duterte regime at serving the needs and interests of the Filipino people. His regime is accountable for its negligence and ill-preparedness, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said in a statement on February 2020.

The Duterte government is aware that calamities and epidemics regularly visit the Philippines.

These would not have automatically turned to disasters if the government took steps to prepare for, and mitigate, disasters; and if the government has been addressing the people’s vulnerabilities to calamities and health emergencies such as the problem of overcrowded urban poor communities, malnutrition, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, and lack of access to free or affordable health care.

Disasters exacerbate the poor people’s insecurities that stem from these vulnerabilities.

Instead, the Philippine government has mostly been doing the opposite. The Duterte regime is INTENTIONALLY inept and indifferent to the possible disastrous impacts of calamities and health emergencies to ordinary Filipinos. It is not due to lack of foresight. It is a predictable outcome of its conscious decisions. It opts to excel more in bowing to its US and Chinese imperialist masters, for its bureaucrat capitalist gains, at the expense of the Filipino people’s lives.

It is plain to see in the series of decisions they have taken in the face of the latest health emergency and disaster to hit our shores.

“Afraid of China’s admonition, Duterte has opted to secure his selfish interests over the people’s welfare,” the CPP said. Duterte acceded to a travel ban from the virus’ country of origin only after widespread condemnation of his inaction, after the World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency and various governments have already taken drastic measures to limit the spread of the virus.

SLASHED BUDGET, WEAK HEALTH CARE SYSTEM FOR THE POOR

Aggravating the people’s vulnerability to epidemics is the dismal state of public health in the country. “Having decreased the health budget year upon year since taking power, the Duterte regime failed to fund enough medical experts and equipment to determine and treat highly contagious diseases,” the CPP said.

The Duterte regime has continued the neoliberal reforms turning health care into a for-profit operation.

The poor majority are increasingly deprived of free public health services but, looking at the shiny private or public hospitals boosted by Philhealth, the Health Secretary claimed we are “not a country with a weak health care system.”

Despite the dismal state of public health, he also said we’re not among the “really poor” countries the World Health Organization worried about in coping with the global health emergency.

Such illusionary denial is easily shattered by facts. The country’s latest doctor-to-patient ratio remains too low at 0.3 per 10,000. Research thinktank Ibon said this is far below the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended ratio of 1-1.5 doctors per 1,000 population.

In the Philippines, the most vulnerable from the corona virus are the urban poor communities and rural areas under-served or not being reached by health services, and are also scarcely informed about the virus, said the Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan-Bikol (MAKIBAKA, an allied organization of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines) said in a statement. In Bicol, as it is in other regions, there are too few public hospitals and most of it are in the cities, the underground women’s group said. “Often, these hospitals lack equipment or the clinics in the barrio lack personnel and don’t open everyday.”

The Duterte government’s conscious indifference to peoples’ welfare shows most starkly in the national budget.

Duterte means business in waging war against the people, conducting surveillance and deploying committees to gag critics and establish military control of civilian agencies. It allocated billions of funds for these.

It has put the people’s money where its war-mongering mouth is. It has done the opposite toward social services.

While plonking billions for military rampages that victimized mostly peasants and indigenous peoples, it has been excising funds direly needed for health emergencies and disaster preparedness.

It slashed by more than half (56 percent) the Department of Health’s (DOH) budget for epidemiology and disease surveillance program, allocating it just P115.5 million compared to P263 million last year. Its health emergency program is at 830 million pesos, or just PhP8 for every Filipino.

If the Duterte government had pursued effective emergency plans and crisis strategies, our scientists and facilities are “more than capable of performing procedures for faster and more sustainable dealing with health emergencies,” the patriotic scientists’ group Agham said in a statement.

Filipino diagnostic capabilities have a lot of room for improvement but it’s severely hampered by the all-time-low budget given the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST). Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdie Gaite said the low DOST budget means little to no funding for potential research in genomics that could have helped improve our diagnostic capabilities.

The decreasing share for health in the national government budget shows the low priority given to this, said research group IBON. Even the crucial program meant to ensure we would have a wide range of human health resources including doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists, allied health professions, community health workers, social health workers and other health care providers and management and support personnel has been losing funding. IBON noted that the budget for the health department’s Health Systems Strengthening Program was cut by Php6.6 billion from Php25.9 billion to Php19.3 billion.

How would an underfunded, undermanned and ill-equipped workforce address public health challenges such as the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)?

The same criminal neglect in past and future natural and man-made disaster has been repeatedly pointed out in the national budget. A puppet government intent to survive or prolong his or her term while amassing bureaucrat loot from projects with imperialists just can’t seem to be bothered to correct this historical trend.

SLASHED BUDGET, ILL-PREPARED FOR DISASTERS

The Philippines is disaster-prone. It is in the Pacific Ring of Fire. It has active volcanoes. It has long been ripe for the Big One temblor. It regularly gets visited by typhoons. Portions of the archipelago are at risk of sinking from the predicted higher searise. In response, defying logic and this annual tally of worsening calamities, the Duterte government has been slashing the budget for disaster risk management. The Taal volcanic eruption illustrates the disastrous bent of puppet governments such as Duterte’s.

As hundreds of thousands of Filipinos reel with little to no rehabilitation yet in sight following the Taal Volcano eruption last January 12, and before that, the earthquakes and typhoons late last year, the Duterte regime’s lack of genuine concern for the Filipino people is starkly revealed.

Never mind the photo ops of government soldiers handing out relief packs (donated by the private sector) or forcing people to vacate their endangered homes (a core strength of the state troops lies in driving people out of their homes). Never mind the DILG Secretary and former Armed Forces Chief Eduardo Año asking for donations. Filipinos voluntarily give that and have in fact been doing that even without Año asking for it. The questions that reverberated following his calls for donations (“Why can’t the government take care of that when the Filipinos have been taxed to death?,” “Why do you spend so much for this and that but allocate a pittance for disasters?”), and the “shocked” responses by some lawmakers at “revelations” that they themselves slashed P4-billion from the already whittled down calamity fund for 2020. All these point to a government that shamelessly institutionalizes criminal neglect of its citizens’ needs.

That it has been caught flat-footed with meager budget for new calamities only shows it has not in the first place really thought of the people’s welfare.

Of the reduced P16 billion budget for calamity funds in 2020, only P7.5 billion can go to new disasters. The rest were already earmarked for relief and rehab of victims of earthquakes and typhoons from late last year and the still unimplemented Marawi rehabilitation. Even traditional politicians note that P7.5 billion is not enough for the more than 200,000 people deprived of livelihood and homes because of Taal’s eruption—this is just one calamity, and 2020 has just started.

BUT THERE’S MONEY IN DISASTERS

Worse than negligence and ineptness, the government is using the disaster to advance business interests and remove the people opposing the scheme. There is a threat, aired by the DILG, that in the guise of ‘rehabilitation,’ they might permanently drive away the people who used to live around the Taal Lake.

“Batangueños must be vigilant to not allow this rehabilitation effort to turn into a profiteering scheme—the 2017-2022 CALABARZON Regional Development Plan has initially proposed that Taal Lake can serve as an ecotourism and leisure zone to maximize its tourism potentials and stimulate the development of new scenic lakeside communities,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Southern Tagalog said.

Against the DILG’s proposed permanent ban of human settlement in Taal Volcano’s 14-km radius danger zone, the group calls on the public and scientific community to conduct first a comprehensive investigation and environmental impact assessment.

Duterte’s promised “aid” involves P25,000 loans, an “uncalled for” offer at this time, said Agham. Batangas’ economy is mostly driven by agriculture.

Rather than offer loans to the disaster victims, the government must fully support the farmers and the fisherfolk affected by the calamity, Agham reasoned.

The National Democratic Front in Southern Tagalog (NDFP-ST) urges the people to also be on guard against “corrupt politicians and officials of the reactionary government who will take advantage of the calamity to pocket millions of calamity funds earmarked for the people.”

OUSTING DUTERTE A PATRIOTIC DUTY, BUILDING THE PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT A NECESSITY

Today the Duterte regime not only has to answer for its neglect of the country’s health programs and disaster risk preparation and mitigation, it must account for its continuing attacks on the people. Even under calamities, the Duterte regime continues to malign progressive peoples’ organizations as they take it upon themselves to mobilize for the disaster survivors’ relief and rehabilitation.

The youth group Anakbayan’s Tulong Kabataan for instance has successfully mobilized the youth for relief and rehabilitation efforts. But last January 20, they flagged the Duterte’s P36-billion funded National Task Force-End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) whose Facebook and Twitter pages red-tagged Anakbayan. The youth group said it’s a “desperate and pathetic move to attack our organization and to distract the people from Duterte’s criminal negligence over the Taal eruption.”

Right from the first days of volcanic eruption the NDFP has mobilized people to send help. It provided immediate aid and relief and muscle in the organized move to safer locations.

While praising the Filipinos’ warmhearted and fast bayanihan, the NDF called on the people to demand greater funds for relief and rehabilitation for those affected by Taal’s eruption.

“Even more so now, there is the pressing need for the people in the regions visited by calamities to unite, mobilize and struggle for calls such as long-term moratorium in farmers’ paying of land rent to their landlord, or their yearly payment for certificate of land ownership (CLOA) under the bogus agrarian reform of the fascist US-Duterte regime, and moratorium also in paying back the high-interest loans from finance institutions and cooperatives,” the NDF-ST said in early January.

Increasing the people’s capacities to prepare for disasters and health emergencies necessitate improving their livelihoods—and this could only start with implementing genuine agrarian reform.

Orienting the government to genuine public service necessitates changing that government.

It has been decades of a corrupt, inefficient, insensitive and criminally negligent puppet governments in the Philippines.

With the corona virus and Taal volcano eruption, Filipinos see again the rottenness of their government. As the regime dawdled, the call for Duterte’s ouster trended on social media.

The Filipino people has a strong, solid basis for demanding Duterte’s ouster. He has tried to forestall it through faked theories and wild accusations. Now, however, with his left and right crimes against the people, he begs to be ousted.

As events unfold, it is clear that while the likes of Duterte is in power, the Filipino people will only get bludgeoned deeper into poverty, suffering bitter oppression, as the NDF-ST concluded in a statement early February. It added that, it is a must to oust the likes of the Duterte regime, and replace it with a leadership that has genuine concern for the people’s welfare, and ready to defend the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country from imperialist intervention and neoliberal impositions. ###

PHOTOS FROM: Aljazeera / CNN Ph / Gulf News / Rappler

#OustDuterte

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Have we got the government we deserved?

in Editorial

The midterm elections of 2019 have come and passed, as in previous ones, tainted with doubts over the results and assumptions of machinations by those in power.

As cynically expected, the Duterte regime emerged “victorious”. Almost all of its candidates were declared winners, with its most loyal vassals – the omnipresent presidential assistant Bong Go and the comedian former Philipppine National Police (PNP) Director Ronald ‘Bato’ de la Rosa – making it to the top-6 circle in the senatorial race.

Now the President has got the supermajority in the Senate, aided by the comebacking election of scions of political dynasties, the daughter of a deposed dictator, a known plunderer, and a celebrity wannabe.

The opposition Liberal Party has been crippled, as the Otso Diretso senatorial slate did not win a single seat. And progressive candidate Neri Colmenares – who notably consistently engaged the administration on timely and popularly-supported issues throughout the campaign period – saw his votes in the 2016 elections shaved by 1.7 million votes. “Duterte magic?” asked a skeptical election analyst.

Having retained a clear majority in the House of Representatives, Duterte has openly dictated a term-sharing scheme for the Speakership in the 17th Congress: the first 15 months on the rostrum for Representative Alan Peter Cayetano of Taguig, and the remaining 21 months for Representative Lord Velasco of Marinduque. Before this arrangement, Duterte’s son Paulo (elected Davao City congressman) and daughter Sara (reelected Davao City mayor) unabashedly displayed their own power-tripping by forming a “Duterte Coalition” in the House to back up comebacking Davao City Representative Isidro Ungab for Speaker.

The sole positive aspect of this election was the tenacity and resiliency with which the progressive partylists belonging to the Makabayan Coalition defiantly withstood and prevailed against the sustained, vicious, nationwide attacks and deceptions used against them by the military-bureacratic machine of the Duterte regime.

To a considerable extent, the voters rejected the regime’s open campaign of “zero votes for the Makabayan partylists,” aimed at dislodging the progressives from their congressional seats held since 2001. Bayan Muna won the three maximum seats allowed by the law, while Gabriela Women’s Party, Act Teachers, and Kabataan Party won a seat each. Only Anakpawis fell short in attaining the number of votes for one seat. The Makabayan bloc, the real consistent opposition in the House, remains intact.

The state machinery was slyly at work before, during, and after the elections. Its most brutal attacks were aimed at progressive candidates and partylists – ranging from killings, arrests and trumped-up charges, harassments and threats, to interminable red-tagging. Brazenly disregarding the clear prohibition by the Constitution, the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines openly engaged in electioneering, campaigning against the progressives even on election day. Vote buying was more massive and rampant than ever. And the much-assailed automated election system (AES), used for the fourth time, recorded the worst incidences of malfunctions that appeared to have been intentional, not accidental (as one IT expert remarked).

Nevertheless, the elections are over and as the winners claim, “The people have spoken.”

Really?

WHAT FALLACY

The elections are meant to be a democratic exercise. The exercise is said to be a great equalizer – rich or poor, everyone is entitled to only one vote. But that is the fallacy of the ballot-box equality. In a class society like the Philippines, the machinery of the state is lodged in the hands of a few, of the rich and the powerful. The great majority is, in reality, represented only in name in these processes and has no real say in the turnout of the elections.

In truth, elections only make it possible for the ruling class to use democratic institutions in furthering their own interests. They have the economic, political, and armed means to use power practically at their whim. This is no democracy at all.

The much-touted “free, fair and honest elections” aphorism is an illusion. Practically anyone who is of age and has the mental capacity can run for public office, but only the moneyed elite can successfully run a campaign, or simply resort to vote buying. The people can choose their representatives, but again only from among the moneyed and the elite. Even if asked to vote wisely, many people are bribed, fooled, hoodwinked, cheated, or forced to vote even for the most undesirable of their oppressors. People want a peaceful election, but threats, intimidation, and violence abound.

When Otso Diretso lost to Duterte, some sectors started calling the voters “bobotante”. The system, not the people, is the culprit. Elections in a semifeudal and semicolonial society are a hoax and fraud is a common occurrence.
Democratic laws and institutions are ample in this Republic claiming to be a democratic state – but only in form, not for real. Human rights are enshrined in the Constitution but state officials are the first to violate, dismiss or disregard the laws. Duterte is a prime example. There are three branches of government for check and balance. But the ruling regime regards all the key posts within the president’s appointing authority as juicy positions to reward its loyalists and supporters.

The minority rules and the majority suffer. That is the meaning of democracy in a semifeudal and semicolonial country.

Despite this rude reality, it is important for the people to participate in the elections as a way to experience and develop their consciousness about how rotten the system is, and what fundamental changes need to be done. The elections become a training ground for the development of revolutionary consciousness. It makes people realize that democracy is lip-service and that the voice of the people can be suppressed or manipulated at any time.

Even elected officials whom the people may initially have felt were true to their promises can turn out to be corrupt, or worse, to be tyrants as in the case of Duterte. The ancient Greeks invented the term tyrant to mean agents of the people who became dictators.

In some cases, progressives and reformers are able to gain power or concessions but only in a limited or temporary sense, and as generally defined, may be tolerated or allowed by the ruling system. Again, this is more an exception than the rule; and exceptions do not make the rule. Once the ruling regime unleashes its full terror, there is no more room for democratic pretensions and all arenas for open people’s participation are deemed closed.

PURSUING DEMOCRACY

Be that as it may, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has even more reason to pursue democracy not just in form but in substance. Its significance – the rule of the majority – is aimed not just in politics but more so in the economic sphere.

In the Philippine context, this means liberating the most numerous, yet also the most oppressed, class – specifically the farmers and agricultural workers who comprise 70% of the population – from oppression and exploitation by a privileged minority.

Hence to stand its ground democracy must be rooted in the economy, which means satisfying the demand for land reform of the landless majority. This means addressing their economic and social problems to effect changes in their class position in Philippine society. This means liberating the country’s productive forces to define their own existence towards justice and prosperity. For too long, widespread landlessness has engendered gross poverty and inequality not just for the peasantry but also for other oppressed classes.

Hence in waging the people’s democratic revolution, the struggle for land takes precedence over all other demands of the people. This is basically an agrarian war. The peasants, in alliance with the working class, have to wrest control of the land from the ruling elite as a means to end poverty and inequality. This is a struggle that may be bloody, because the most reactionary class, the landlords, will not take this sitting down when their land monopoly is challenged, or private property is subdivided and distributed among the tillers of the land.

In due time, as the revolution advances the will of the majority shall find expression not just in the economy but in politics as well. One who holds economic power wields political power. Hence the dominant position of the great majority must be secured for the flowering of true democracy.

Revolutionaries are aware that the quest for democracy does not stop with the victory of the bourgeois-democratic revolution but shall be carried on to the next stage, the socialist revolution. Ultimately the working class becomes the majority of the population, and the dominant class as well. The leadership of this class will find expression in a proletarian state until such time that the people can govern their own lives with no more need for classes or states.

As Lenin put it, it is not the bourgeoisie but the proletariat who can make democracy happen.

True enough, in the Philippines and through the leadership of the proletarian party, the CPP, changes are becoming more visible in many guerrilla fronts in the country.

Emboldened by the revolution, the peasants in the countryside are not just taking up arms to fight for their rights; they are building their own organizations and setting up organs of political power. Elections are called in a truly free, fair and honest manner; the ballot is treated as sacred; representatives are selected from their own ranks and are subject to recall when they err.

Group meetings, mass assemblies, education sessions, deliberations, consultations have become as common as farming. The people are involved in governance as well as in policy-making. Even matters related to production is no longer just an individual or family decision but is addressed by the entire community.

Once the majority of the people gains the power over their own lives – that will be democracy. And that is what the ruling class fears most: an awakened citizenry schooled in the ways of democracy.#

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