For the third time, President Rodrigo Duterte addressed the nation regarding the administration’s response to COVID-19 pandemic. His speech, like the previous ones, did not offer comfort and hope.
Duterte placed the entire Luzon island under enhanced community quarantine, a euphemism for total lockdown. To contain the virus, all residents are required to stay at home and work from home for one month. Only private establishments providing basic necessities such as food and medicines shall be open. All public mass transportation shall be suspended.
Hours after the declaration, there were night-shift employees who were forced to walk just to get home. This morning, many employees of hospitals, pharmacies, banks, drugstores, food industry found it difficult to get to work.
Jeepney drivers, taxi drivers, motor taxi riders, construction workers, carinderia owners, sari-sari store owners, vendors and other no-work, no-pay employees now wonder how their families would survive. How could they put food on the table, as well as pay the rent and utility bills? The official remark, “Nobody dies from hunger,” could not fill their stomach.
Duterte practically passed the buck on to local government units, telling them to tap the calamity fund for food assistance. He called on barangay captains to take care of their constituencies. He appealed for compassion from the private sector to help out in this time of crisis. No, he did not mention that he has over P4 billion at his disposal. He could not let go his confidential and intelligence funds for public services.
LGUs and even employers have been caught flat footed. How do they provide transportation services? How do they provide food for their residents for one month given the limited budget?
His Cabinet officials boasted of a P27.1-billion “war chest” against COVID-19. More than half of this, P14 billion, is allotted for the tourism industry. The amount is 78 percent higher than the 3.1-billion allocation for direct efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus, which includes acquisition of test kits.
Only P3.2 billion has been earmarked for direct services for affected workers and establishments. The rest are loans for small farmers and fisherfolk and micro entrepreneurs.
It doesn’t help that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) suspended cash transfer programs such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, the Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens and Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT).
The only certainty we now have is that we have been left to fend for ourselves. This administration absolves itself of any responsibility to mind the ordinary people’s survival. And if we rightfully assert our right to live, our right to health, our right to good governance, we have been warned: violators will be arrested.
We must not let fear creep in. We must collectively demand what is just — emergency assistance to the poor and comprehensive social package for workers and those in the informal sector.
We cannot just sit idly by while our poor brothers and sisters struggle to live each day. Holding this administration accountable is our civic duty.
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