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ILOILO CITY DRIVERS COMPLAIN OF DELAYED PAYOUT UNDER LIBRE SAKAY PROGRAM

ILOILO CITY – Various transport groups in Iloilo City filed a complaint in the Department of Transportation (DOTR) over the unfair treatment experienced by Public Utility Jeepney Drivers and Operators in relation to the pay-out of the city’s libre sakay program.

The drivers said they were surprised that the Vallacar Transit, Inc. (Ceres buses) had already been allowed to ply for the city’s libre sakay program, who also competed with them. Drivers also complained that the pay-out of large companies like VTI was given priority compared to small drivers like them.

For Piston Panay, since the start of lockdown, the government’s negligence and incompetence has caused difficulties for small operators and drivers. The group further said that it has been two years already since the drivers face the health crisis but the PUJ drivers have not yet recovered.

The group added that the government’s libre sakay program is deceptive as it is only used to phase out the traditional PUJs, and to favor and support the business of corporatized transport cooperatives.

For PISTON, if DOTR and LTFRB 6 have the capacity to provide a budget for modernized buses owned by large companies, they should also set a budget for small operators and drivers to continue their service.

Finally, PISTON calls for the development of technology and industries for the creation of a public mode of transportation, which is owned and operated by the government and not by large companies like VTI and others./PT

ILONGGO ACTIVISTS ELECTED AS PARTYLIST NOMINEES

ILOILO City – Three Ilonggos were announced as Partylist nominees during the national convention of Makabayan Coalition held on September 27 at UP Diliman, Quezon City. Raoul Manuel and Jandeil Roperos are the first and third nominees of Kabataan Partylist respectively, while long-time women’s rights activist Lucy Francisco is elected as the third nominee of Gabriela Women’s Party.

Currently, Kabataan Partylist and Gabriela Women’s Party hold one seat each in the House of Representatives.

Manuel and Roperos both came from the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) in Miag-ao and served as chairpersons of the College of Arts and Sciences Student Council in AY 2014-2015 and AY 2016-2017 respectively.

Manuel was a graduate of Applied Mathematics and was the first Summa Cum Laude of UPV. He also represented the UP studentry as a student regent in 2016. He was also the former national president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines or NUSP and currently the national president of Kabataan Partylist.

Roperos is an advocate of LGBTQ rights. She is currently the national president of the NUSP.

This is Francisco’s third time as a nominee of the Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP). She was a founding member of the GWP and one of the founding members of Gabriela in Panay Island.

The Makabayan Coalition also announced the senatorial candidacy of former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares and Kilusang Mayo Uno National Chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog.

Despite the incessant attacks against activists and progressive organizations, the Makabayan Coalition launched its participation in the 2022 national elections and has vowed to oppose any candidate of the Duterte administration.

The Makabayan Coalition is composed of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela Women’s Party, ACT Teachers Partylist, and Kabataan Partylist.

Currently, Makabayan Coalition has six representatives in the 18th Congress./PT

OPINION | FRUSTRATE DUTERTE’S DYNASTIC SUCCESSION BID IN THE 2022 ELECTIONS

OPINION | FRUSTRATE DUTERTE’S DYNASTIC SUCCESSION BID IN THE 2022 ELECTIONS

By Siegfred Deduro, former Bayan Muna Representative, is a human rights defender, environmentalist, and fair-trade advocate.

 

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte running for Vice President in the 2022 elections is unprecedented in the country’s history. Political observers view such move as a circumvention of the ban against the re-election of a President under the 1987 Constitution.  Duterte claims that, if he wins, he will be gain immunity from suit from the International Criminal Court and local courts.

Mayor Sara Duterte’s public pronouncements as to her uncertainty in running for president does not concur with her own actions.  She has been busy visiting potential allies in vote-rich regions, organized a nationwide campaign network, and her supporters have adorned strategic areas with posters and billboards bearing the message “Run Sara, Run!”.

Duterte’s playbook involves confusing the public and his opponents and using squid tactics to obfuscate and deflect politically damaging issues. He played the public by discouraging Sara from running for president, and having Sen. Bong Go chosen as the presidential candidate for the Cusi-led faction of PDP-Laban. Eventually, Bong Go declined the nomination for presidency and offered himself to Sara Duterte as a potential VP candidate, should President Duterte withdraw his own VP candidacy under the Cusi-led faction.

Duterte brags that he would again trounce the Opposition in the 2022 elections, like he did in 2016 and 2019. But can he do it under the present circumstances?

Duterte has a seemingly formidable advantage in terms of the resources and machinery that come with the presidency. He posted high ratings despite so many negative issues against him in dubious poll surveys conducted amidst a climate of fear and impunity and waves of extra-judicial killings and militarized restrictions during the pandemic.

Effectively using pork barrel and intimidation, Duterte controls a supermajority of congressmen in the House of Representatives.

He caused the ouster of former Supreme Court Justice Sereno and the overwhelming majority of the Court are justices he appointed.

Two months before the upcoming elections, after Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas and Commissioners Rowena Guanzon and Antonio Kho retire on Feb. 2, 2022, all COMELEC Commissioners will be Duterte appointees, joining Socorro Inting, Marlon Casquejo and Antonio Kho Jr. – the three incumbent commissioners previously appointed during his term.

Moreover, Dennis Uy, the owner of F2 Logistics and Duterte’s rising crony and biggest campaign contributor in the 2016 elections, won the bidding for a ₱1.61-billion contract with the COMELEC to transport 2022 election paraphernalia.

The Anti-Terrorism Act, though still pending review by the Supreme Court, is now in effect, further aggravating the impunity in red-tagging, persecution, and extra-judicial killings targeting critics of the government.

As the pandemic worsens, militarized lockdowns are used to justify the repression of protest actions.

Duterte has an organized and competent core of personnel effectively playing the public towards their desired goal.

Strategic Communications Laboratories or SCL Group, which owns the political consultancy at the centre of a Facebook data-harvesting scandal linked to the 2016 US presidential race, boasted on its website that it helped get Duterte elected in 2016 by rebranding him as a tough crime fighter.

Facebook has shut down over 100 fake accounts traced to police and military units in the Philippines for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior”, according to Nathaniel Gleicher, cyber-security policy chief of the said social media organization.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary Kris R. Ablan confirmed that the PCOO hired 375 contractual employees which cost the office P70 million last year. These contractual employees are suspected to be trolls or people paid to anonymously interfere in shaping political opinion online.

Human rights group KARAPATAN suffered a massive and prolonged Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack for three weeks. The attack came only a month after waves of DDoS attacks targeting the alternative online publications Bulatlat and Altermidya.

Qurium Media Foundation, a Swedish non-profit digital security solutions provider linked the attacks to the Philippine government.

The DDoS attacks are taking place amid the online solidarity campaign #StopTheKillingsPH co-hosted by KARAPATAN, which marks one year since human rights organizations and advocates across the world launched the call to stop the killings in the Philippines and to prosecute Duterte for his crimes against the Filipino people.

On the other hand, Duterte is fast losing his grip on political initiative and is becoming increasingly isolated.

He is now trapped in the quagmire of obviously-fraudulent transactions red-flagged by the Commission on Audit involving executive agencies like the Department of Health, the Department of Social Welfare and Services, the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, among others. The people are aghast with this blatant waste of billions of public funds in the middle of a pandemic, even as the government incurs trillions in debt.

The “smoking gun” goes up to Malacanang!

Like a boxer successively hit by a combination of haymakers, Duterte appears to be “losing his buttons” in his daily press conferences, ranting and vilifying the COA and the Senators conducting a legislative inquiry into these suspicious transactions, and appealing to the people to trust him. Duterte has no moral authority in his avowed fight against corruption.

Duterte is unrepentant and in denial of his administration’s epic failure in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. The utter failure to contain the spread of the virus is the hallmark of Duterte and his militarized Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID).

As of Sept. 5, there are 20,019 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total infections to 2,080,984 with 157,438 active cases; 20,089 new recoveries bringing the total to 1,889,312; and 173 new deaths, bringing the total fatalities to 34,234.

On September 2, according to the Pharmaceutical Technology webpage, only 13.2% of the country’s population is full vaccinated, five months after first jabs were administered.  This is too slow if the target is to vaccinate 70% of the population to achieve herd immunity. The vaccines administered include a slew of various brands, a large portion of which were donated by the WHO COVAX facility and China.  The so-called “Vaccine Czar”, ex-General Carlito Galvez, showed his incompetence in ensuring a prompt and steady supply of COVID-19 vaccines.  With the current rate of vaccine roll-out, herd immunity may not be achieved until the May 2022 elections. The much hyped “vaccine hesitancy” is a minor problem; the biggest problem is the lack of vaccines.

In a recent congressional budget hearing, a former DOH Secretary and now party-list representative, revealed that “Vaccine Czar” Galvez has been sitting on a multi-party (LGU, private sector, national government) signed purchase order of 10 million doses of vaccines.

The government has now realized the folly of imposing militarized general lockdowns after the Gross Domestic Product decreased by 9.5% in 2020. It is the sharpest dip on record since data dating back to 1947, and also the first GDP decline since 1998 (-0.5%).  According to epidemiology experts, general lockdowns is like “burning a house to kill a rat”.

The Coalition for People’s Right to Health asserts that lockdowns are ineffective if contact tracing and mass testing are not effectively undertaken to identify hot spots of infection. Insufficient assistance to affected communities aggravates hunger among the poor.

Before the end of her term, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of the International Criminal Court sought authorization from The Hague tribunal to open a full investigation into Duterte’s ongoing war on drugs that killed thousands of people, including innocent children. She said preliminary probe that began in February 2018 determined “that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the Crime Against Humanity of murder was committed” in the Philippines between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019, which was when Duterte ordered that the Philippines withdraw from the court.

As an ordinary citizen, Duterte faces a real possibility of imprisonment for his numerous crimes against the people and the nation, in the same manner that his predecessors – Estrada and Arroyo – were imprisoned.

With Duterte’s tolerance of Chinese incursions into Philippine maritime areas, the latter is getting bolder in claiming portions of Philippine patrimony. Reports now point to the possibility that in crafting a Code of Conduct for all Asian claimants in the West Philippine Sea, China would likely insist on formalizing its claim and military bases in the Spratly islands and Panatag Shoal where it seems intent on setting up similar installations. Duterte has said he will not oppose China if they do that. The vast majority of Filipinos are infuriated at this treasonous collaboration with China.

Defying risks and threats of militarized policies and lockdowns, the people nationwide launched militant protest actions against repressive policies, continuing extra-judicial killings and the persecution of dissenters, and demand just compensation for their work, among others. The ban on rallies is the only reason why gigantic protest actions don’t happen. As direct street protests are banned, the social media and mainstream media is rife with people’s gripes against Duterte’s incompetence, corruption, human rights violations and betrayal in the West Philippine Sea.

The rift among the local elite is widening. Former allies, notably Sen. Pacquiao, Sen. Lacson, Rep. Alvarez and former Sen. Pimentel have joined the opposition. The anti-Duterte broad opposition is increasingly gaining traction.

Political isolation, failed management of the COVID-19 pandemic, worsening economic crisis, treason in the WPS, human rights violations and international isolation, growing strength of the people’s movement and widening rift within the local elite will weigh heavier that Duterte’s advantages. The people will prevail in the 2022 elections. ###

OPINION | PEOPLE OF PANAY AND GUIMARAS WILL OPPOSE ANOTHER DUTERTE IN MALACANANG

PEOPLE OF PANAY AND GUIMARAS WILL OPPOSE ANOTHER DUTERTE IN MALACANANG
By Siegfred Deduro, former Bayan Muna Representative

The confluence of three major factors bodes defeat in Panay and Guimaras for Sara Duterte and her vice-presidential candidate in the upcoming 2022 national elections.

1) Panay and Guimaras are not the bailiwicks of Rodrigo Duterte but, rather, those of several local political dynasties capable of perpetuating themselves in power, with or without Duterte’s support.

In the 2016 elections, Western Visayas did not vote for Duterte. He ranked a poor third – after Mar Roxas and Grace Poe.

The midterm elections in 2019 saw the majority of local politicians ally themselves with Duterte, but this was a matter of political convenience for local dynasties. They were after the Presidential pork barrel and were intimidated by Duterte’s impunity in terrorizing local executives and officials. The local political dynasties won mainly because of their own network, patronage, and resources. Alignment with Duterte’s PDP-Laban merely added to their advantage over their opponents.

Isko Moreno and Manny Pacquiao have more appeal to Ilonggos than Sara Duterte. The much publicized “support of Ilonggo governors” – i.e. Iloilo Gov. Art Defensor Jr., Capiz Gov. Evan Contreras, and Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores – for Duterte’s candidacy is “written in water”.

Contreras, who aims to break the Roxas dynasty in Capiz, may support Sara Duterte, thinking that aligning with her would be a crucial advantage against the Roxases. On the other hand, Miraflores and Defensor are most likely biding their time and may end up supporting Duterte’s opponent.

For traditional politicians, the timing in choosing whom to support is of the essence. After the funds (from the pork barrel or the national fund) for local projects are released on or just before the prohibition period comes into force on March 25, 2022, the big shift will likely happen.

2) After 6 years in office, Duterte is not what he used to be when he launched his 2016 campaign – a “rock star” packaged as a decisive reformer who had a heart for the poor.

He is now a tyrant, an epic failure when it came to curbing the Covid-19 pandemic, an abettor of corruption, the author of heinous crimes in his anti-drug campaign and war against dissenters, and a traitor to the country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea.

His government’s terrible Covid-19 response proved detrimental to the people’s physical and mental health and exacerbated the country’s economic crisis.

Duterte and his cabal of generals in the IATF-EID are clueless on how to contain the pandemic and improve the economic conditions of the masses.

In his first year in office, Duterte shamed and publicly accused several government officials in Panay and Guimaras as drug protectors. Foremost among them was former Iloilo City Mayor Jed Mabilog, whose political career was destroyed without due process.

Until now, Duterte has not proven that Mabilog was a drug protector.  Others in his list were: Alex Centena of Calinog, Iloilo; Julius Ronald Pacificador of Hamtic, Antique; Sigfredo Salangutin Betita of Carles, Iloilo; Marciano Malones of Maasin, Iloilo; Vice Mayor Francis “Ansing” Amboy of Maasin, Iloilo; Attorney Antonio Pesina and Erwin “Tongtong” Plagata of Iloilo City; and Ex-Rep. JC Rahman Nava of Guimaras. No one in this list was ever convicted by a Court in connection with Duterte’s claims.

The aforementioned political figures and their families and friends have axes to grind against Duterte. For them, the 2022 elections is pay-back time.

The notoriously infamous drug personality in Duterte’s list is Jeffrey Celis, now a rabid attack dog of the NTF-ELCAC.

3) Anti-Duterte sentiments are growing more popular in Panay and Guimaras as the people suffer from the physical and mental stress and the grave economic impact of lockdowns, not to mention Duterte’s oppressive rule and the state-sponsored terrorism he unleashed.

Despite a blanket prohibition on mass gatherings, creative protest actions were launched across the region. The floodgates will open and protest actions against the Duterte regime will spill out into the streets once restrictions are lifted.

The December 30, 2020 massacre of 9 Tumandok leaders in Tapaz, Capiz and the illegal arrest of 16 others based on “planted evidence” using search warrants issued by judges from the National Capital Region was the tipping point for all Catholic Bishops in islands of Panay, Negros and Romblon to denounce and demand justice for victims of extra-judicial killings and arrests on trumped-up charges. All other leaders of major churches in the region decried these incidents and joined the call for justice for the victims.

The attempted murder of human rights lawyer Atty. Angelo Karlo Guillen on March 3, 2021 aroused the indignation of the IBP and even the Supreme Court.  The earlier murder of Bayan Muna Iloilo City Coordinator Jory Porquia on April 30, 2020 and the illegal arrest of 42 activists the following day fueled the outrage of the general public.

These events contributed to the national and international anger of Duterte’s bloody, tyrannical regime.

Aklanons are indignant and oppose the Boracay Island Development Authority (BIDA) Bill and Duterte’s plan to turn the island into an elite gambling and tourism destination, to the detriment of Aklanons and other stakeholders.

They oppose Duterte’s cronies and their Chinese partners taking control of Boracay. Tens of thousands of workers were displaced when Duterte closed the island and they are now facing total eviction.

Despite the advantage of having government funds and trolls doing relentless propaganda work for Duterte, the social media and the mainstream media in the region is rife with anti-Duterte sentiments.

Duterte’s bid for dynastic succession in the 2022 national elections will be frustrated in Western Visayas. ###

CAPIZ HEALTHCARE WORKERS DEMAND ADDITIONAL FUND FOR THEIR SALARY

ROXAS CITYEmployees of Roxas Memorial Provincial Hospital protested last September 23 in front of the said hospital to call for the immediate approval of the supplementary budget intended for their salary.

Through the hospital’s official Facebook page, employees said that they are not ‘ghost employees’, instead, tired frontliners due to relentless service to the people in the midst of the pandemic.

That same night, employees held a candle lighting to convey to the government and other concerned agencies that the hospital is already in a critical situation.

The employees also stated to set aside any ‘political war’ as there is still pandemic. They further called that the requested supplementary budget, which has been demanded by the hospital management for a long time, should be approved immediately. According to the group, healthcare workers face risk every day in the hospital while attending their patients, that is why it is only right for them to receive a fair salary and other benefits./PT

OPINION | Pandemics as Disasters: Reflections on Southeast Asia and the Philippines

Pandemics as Disasters: Reflections on Southeast Asia and the Philippines
Ruchie Mark D. Pototanon

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language” (Karl Marx, 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte)1
The thought of a “glorious past” has always made me cringe. For more than a decade teaching history at the university, I have looked at the past with great cynicism. Rather than as epics of “great men”, I have looked at the historical events as cautionary tales. History that does not nothing but glorify and romanticize are products of poor (or even dubious) scholarship. Looking at the  fine print and digging into the archives always reveal the grim details of the human experience. Such is the mood especially if things like pandemics are discussed, where death and suffering are those that punctuate human experience.
The summer school at Universitas Gadjah Mada has offered me an opportunity to cast a wider net and looked at the role of diseases in history at a wider scale. I am quite familiar with history of epidemics in the Philippines. Something close to home is the 1886-87 Cholera Epidemic in my home province of Capiz. As I was doing a paper on 19th century conditions of the area, I was able to access pertinent documents to this calamitous event. More than 9000 people died in Capiz,  roughly a tenth of the province’s  population at that time . The following years were also disastrous, as the failed harvests and storms caused innumerable hardships to the people. Perhaps these events precipitated the early growth of the insurrection in the area. Capiz became the setting for the first two separate revolutionary movements outside the main island of Luzon.

The case of Capiz mirrors the other cases in Southeast Asia during the colonial times. Natives being subjects of Western colonizers have been the most vulnerable to dying with epidemics. Meanwhile another recurring theme is the relation between disease outbreaks and the colonial structure. The peoples of Southeast Asia have been further integrated into the global trade networks by the Western Imperialism, which exposed them to different forms of contagion from different parts of the worlds. Consequently, the extractive economies of colonialism have forced the natives off their lands and obliging them to grow crops for export, many are plants which the natives cannot eat. Lastly, the colonists have also restructured the environment and the dwelling of their subjects. Native settlements were restructured to conform with the view of order from their foreign eyes. As cities and towns were built, forests were cleared and waters were reclaimed, exposing the inhabitants to new or heightened hazards. The colonizers are also confident of their racial superiority and distinguished themselves from the people they conquer. The latter being relegated into cramped and less salubrious villages with no proper utilities while the masters live with the best comforts of their times.
These unjust conditions have spawned the worst of diseases, to which the poor natives were most likely to succumb. The colonial governments tried to treat the diseases which the inequities of colonialism caused with western medicine. Truly, these efforts would lead to reduction of morbidity, but it also further reiterated the notions of white supremacy. Although these diseases were controlled with the help of innumerable native hands, most of them will be forgotten and relegated into the background as mere caregivers or hospital hands. The latter’s indigenous methods and activities were usually unrecorded if not being blamed for the spread of the disease.  It was the “white” doctors that were usually honored  for saving the people.
After the Second World War, one by one countries in Southeast Asia gained their independence but the old networks set by centuries of colonialism remain and the inequities with their populations remain. Disease outbreaks also continue to happen from time to time like Nipah Virus (1998-1999) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (2002-2004). These occurrences however are to be dwarfed by the COVID 19 pandemic which has put the whole world to a standstill.

All lectures in the UGM Summer School relate to the present conditions by the current pandemic. However as different lectures were given each day, several points have been made clear to me. First, disease outbreaks are pivotal events in history and they are bound to happen from time to time, as the contagion, being part of nature evolves with us. Second, this continuous string of disease outbreaks (and eventually pandemics) usually exposes the different conditions in countries in which they spread. These conditions preclude whether the countries will have success in dealing with the consequences of the pandemic.
The latter point is the most relevant for me, as the weaknesses and problems of many Southeast Asian nations have been further exposed by the problems brought by COVID 19. Vietnam and Thailand were tagged as early successes in containing the diseases. However, Vietnam is now experiencing an upsurge and like other Southeast Asian nations is having problems with securing its vaccine supply.2 This inequity exists as majority of the vaccine supply is monopolized by Western countries. These countries include two of Vietnam’s former invaders/colonizers: France and the United States of America. France has already proceeded with giving its citizens a third, booster shot while the US has disputed the World Health Organization’s call for booster shot moratorium.3 Meanwhile majority of their former colonies in Southeast Asia are very much behind their vaccination schedule and are suffering the worst upsurges of COVID morbidity so far.
Thailand on the other hand has had a series of coups in the recent years and the pandemic has allowed the government to undermine pro-democracy movements.4 The use of pandemic response as an excuse to suppress human rights and civil liberties is not unique to Thailand. The Philippines has been the hotbed of extrajudicial killings since Rodrigo Duterte came into power in 2016. His infamous “War on Drugs” has led to the deaths of several thousands (more than 6000 are confirmed killed by the police)  of alleged drug suspects. This death toll has already got the attention of the International Criminal Court who saw basis for a probable “crimes against humanity” case.5 Consequently, activists and community organizers are also being killed, some while being served arrest warrants that are later declared invalid.6 These killings continued well into the pandemic.
One of those killed early in the lockdown was familiar face to me: the community organizer and activist Jose Reynaldo “Jory” Porquia.  We would usually meet at the local protests in Iloilo City  and when the lockdowns were declared he was one of those who organized community kitchens to feed the people. On April 30, 2020, he was shot in his home by unidentified assailants but prior to his death, he has been trailed by members of the police. Forty-two of his fellow activists (including his daughter) were also arrested when they tried to stage a caravan to demand justice for him7. On March 3, 2021, a former classmate and now human rights lawyer Angelo Karlo Guillen was also stabbed with a screwdriver in the face by an unknown attacker. Atty Guillen has been one of the petitioners of against the Anti-Terror Law and has served as the legal counsel for activists and members of the Tumandok indigenous people  who have been arrested by the police.8
All these attacks are perched on the practice of red tagging, in which civilians are labelled by the state as “affiliated to communist insurgents”. This attempts to vilify these persons and justify threats and attacks on them. This propaganda is regularly spewed by government agencies such as the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC). Among the NTF ELCAC’s victims were the Ms. Patricia Non, the first organizer of community pantries which sprouted in April 2021. This setup operates on the concept “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan” (Give according to one’s capacity, take based on one’s needs) where shelves are displayed in a public place and people can put food and essential items for others to take for free. This was well received by the public as the country is having the longest lockdown in history and aid from the government is scarce. However, posts accusing the community pantry as “communist propaganda” circulated in social media with official pages of the police sharing them. Furthermore, NTF ELCAC spokesperson Gen. Antonio Parlade likened Patricia Non’s community pantry to “Satan’s temptation of Eve” and Asst. Secretary Lorraine Badoy accused her of being a “communist”. Ms. Non has since feared for her safety because of these threats.9
All these antics are just the tip of the iceberg of the kind of “disaster” that the pandemic response in Philippines has been. Early in the Summer School, I categorically asked Dr. Luthfi Adam, if the past epidemics in Dutch Indies can be considered as “colonial disasters”? Such inquiry comes from the fact that high morbidity among the natives was a result of the oppressive systems imposed by the Dutch colonizers. The answer is yes and perhaps the same thing is true with how the COVID 19 pandemic is handled throughout Southeast Asia. Global inequities still abound as early successes have been rendered useless by the lack of access to vaccines. Within individual nations are disasters of their own, in which the poor populace is at the mercy of the rich and powerful. The latter who gained disproportionate influence with the rise of authoritarian and populist leaderships in the past few years. This eerily foreshadows the end of the pandemic, where millions of lives will be sacrificed for the interests of a few. These interests being guised under the pretense of “order” and the “economy”. The quote above by Marx seems right, then.
Now, where do I go from here?  The pandemic has delayed one of possibly the greatest milestones in my life: getting a PhD. I was supposed to begin this May 2020 but the pandemic happened and I have to indefinitely postpone my commencement. While attending this Summer School, I did continue my research for my PhD thesis on the history of urban flooding, thus it has become often that I saw things at the framework of disaster studies, with “disaster” being human made. I saw this pandemic as a disaster, one that is due to wrong decisions or policies. Therefore, as a student of history I feel obliged to take note of current events and transform them into something that can be transmitted to the future generations, so that may learn from past mistakes. I have also learned to accept that change takes time, so whatever suggestions we might have now will not transform into policy immediately, sometimes we must fight long battles for it. One lesson I learned from Meaghan Morris from another summer school years ago is that activism involves persistent optimism: it doesn’t matter how many times we lose but at least we win. I see the past and present as things to contend with, neither as fantasies nor as nightmares but as realities that will allow us to shape our futures. I am yet again drawn into an oft quoted phrase from Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach , “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it”.
-o-
The Author, Ruchie Mark Pototanon is Assistant Professor of  History at the University of the Philippines Visayas and an incoming PhD student at Murdoch University. This paper is submitted as a requirement for the Universitas Gadjah Mada History Summer School entitled, “ Resilience and Control: Transmissible Disease and the Rise of Modern Society”.
-o-
1Marx, Karl, and Saul Padover (trans.) . 1869. “The Eighteenth Brumaire.” marxists.org. Accessed August 17, 2021.
2Reuters . 2021. “Vietnam concerned over vaccine supply as COVID-19 cases near record.” August 12.
3The Guardian . 2021. “US Disputes WHO Call to Delay COVID Booster Shots to Help Poorer nations .” August 5.
4Strangio, Sebastian. 2020. “Thailand Imposes ‘Severe’ State of Emergency to Quash Pro-Democracy Protests.” The Diplomat , October 15.
5CNN Philippines . 2020. “ICC finds basis for crimes against humanity in Duterte drug war.” 12 15.
6Dumalag, Gabryelle. 2021. “Dismissed cases: A look at the invalid search warrants vs red-tagged activists.” Bulalat, July 16.
7Burgos, Nestor P. 2020. “Daughter of slain Iloilo activist, 41 others nabbed for quarantine violations.” Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 1.
8CNN Philippines. 2021. “Human rights lawyer in one of Anti-Terrorism Act petitions stabbed in Iloilo City.” March 4.
9GMA News Online . 2021. “Patricia Non hoping Duterte will order stop to ‘red-tagging’ of community pantry organizers.” April 22.

TIGADLUMAN | Binalaybay ni Tomas Talledo

Tigadluman

ni: Tomas Talledo


“Ang mga saka malahalon indi makit-an sang aton mga mata.”
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I.
Alipalok sang COVID-19 Virus
kag luha sang mga frontliners
naga agay sa panangis sa minatay

Kahangawa sang naga palangga
kakapoy sang panglakaton pauli
pas-an ang kabug-at sang kakulba

Malapnagon nga gutom sang imol
dili halos mabatian ang ila t’yabaw
nga unod sang ila lubot nga dughan

Sa lapnagon nga COVID-19 Virus
ara ang pagbuklad sang kaalwan
kaupod sang bantiling nga paglaum

Ang kapawa nga makalampuwas
sa kadulom sang COVID-19 Virus
magabutwa kita sa lawod nga tawo.

II.
Dapat bastante ang pagpalangga
kag wala’y untat tubod nga hutik
sa dulunggan kag sa kasingkasing

Tayuyon ipa-ilig agud ugat mabuhi
kay gaburambud ang kahangawa
kag ang pag ginhawa dapat isalauli

Iwahig ang kagutok sang dughan
Wala sa ginsang-an nga mga dalan
Wala sa kahipos sang mga lulubngan

Kinamatarung nga mangin matawhay,
kinamatarung nga mahilway hikuton
kabuganaan sang mga paalabuton

Makit-an bala ang kaluwasan? Indi
Makit-an bala ang kadalag-an? Indi
Mga tigadluman nga mabatyagan.

-o-

Dibuho ni: John Alvin Dolar

OPINION | GOVERNMENT STILL IN DENIAL, UNREPENTANT OF ITS FAILED PANDEMIC APPROACH


GOVERNMENT STILL IN DENIAL, UNREPENTANT OF ITS FAILED PANDEMIC APPROACH
OPINION | SIEGFRED D. DEDURO

On August 30, 2021 the Philippines registered a record high of 22,366 new COVID-19 cases.  Cumulative figure of total positive cases is 1,976,202, of which 1,485,945 are active; 1,794,278 have recovered; and 33,330 died.

This is a slap on the face of President Duterte and his militarized Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID).  Instead of being self-critical and scientific, the government insists on a narrative that its Covid 19 response is the best under our circumstances and blames the people who are suffering.

The government’s response revolves around militarized lockdowns, observance of health protocol (face mask and shield, social distancing) and vaccination.  After almost two years of generalized lockdown (euphemistically named as ECQ, GCQ, etcetera), millions of Filipinos are jobless, while food prices rise and government debt balloons.

The pandemic plunged the Philippine economy to its worst contraction since World War II, with gross domestic product (GDP) falling by 9.5% in 2020. It is the sharpest dip on record since available data dating back to 1947, and also the first GDP decline since 1998 (-0.5%).

Two Indian veteran infectious diseases experts — Jayaprakash Muliyal and T Jacob John, who were at the forefront of the leprosy eradication and pulse polio immunisation programmes, respectively — feel it’s time to end the lockdown, with one of them describing a long-term shutdown as akin to ‘burning the house to kill a rat’.

Indeed lockdowns should be granular, targeted at identified hot spots of infection.  A glaring deficiency of government’s pandemic response is the proactive mass testing and contact tracing.

According to Emily Martin, Associate Professor on Epidemiology University of Michigan: “The purpose of surveillance tests is to monitor the current state of the epidemic. It doesn’t mean that everybody gets tested. Instead, surveillance means that we test the right samples of the population in a way that allows us to make inferences as efficiently as possible. It doesn’t mean that we test everybody because it’s important that we strike this balance between getting the information we need and saving enough tests for clinical care.”

Free mass testing to determine the extent of the epidemic is crucial in the fight against the unseen Covid19 virus.  Detection, containment and treatment of Covid19 cases should be surgical, in order to lessen the economic impact of the pandemic.  At present, the government has privatized the conduct of tests, which benefits private laboratory firms as the cost of RT-PCR test ranges from Php 2,500 – 5,000, way beyond the reach of ordinary Filipinos.

Related to this problem is the limited capacity in contact tracing.  Contact tracing is integral in any epidemic response.  However, the current capacity is only 1:3, way below the DOH target of 1:37.  No wonder the current surge of infection of the Covid19 Delta variant has not been anticipated nor contained by the government.

There is a glaring lack of capacity in identifying Covid19 variants in the country. At present there is only one genome sequencing laboratory capable of identifying Covid19 variants, the Philippine Genome Center.  It lags behind the need to promptly monitor these variants.  There should be at least one laboratory per region to aid in the epidemiological surveillance.

The country’s health care infrastructure is overwhelmed by the continuing spread of the pandemic.  Before the pandemic, our health care system is fundamentally flawed and inadequate.  According to the WHO the recommended ratio of medical doctors to population is 1:1,000. World Bank data in 2017 reveals that we only have 0.6 physicians:1,000 population.  From the same source, our nurses to population ratio is 4.6:1,000 while the WHO recommended ratio is 4:1,000.

It is obvious that we lack doctors, but why do we lack nurses in the hospitals if we have a surplus of them in the country? The logical explanation is that they go abroad for greener pastures because they don’t receive decent salaries and benefits compared to Duterte’s favorites – the soldiers and policemen.

In a 1990 study of the UP National Health Institute, 6 out of 10 Filipinos die without seeing a doctor.  Commercialization is rife in the health sector.  There are five private hospitals for every public tertiary hospital.  Half (50%) of the barangays in the country do not have a Barangay Health Station (BHS), even though the Local Governments Code mandate the establishment of BHS in every barangay.

Giving sufficient aid to those affected by militarized lockdowns is necessary. It is cruel for the government not to extend sufficient aid to those affected by restrictions.

The proliferation of “community pantries” nationwide attest to the lack of support of the government to affected communities by lockdowns.

Antigen and RT-PCR tests should be free and shouldered by the government in the national agencies and LGUs, and private enterprises at the factory or shop level.

The system of the House of Representatives (HOR) is a good example.  No one can enter without first undergoing free antigen test every week. If found positive, one has to take an RT-PCR test paid for by health insurance of employees. This could be done by other government offices, and private enterprises too to ensure a safe workplace for employees.  Moreover, this system may be put in place in schools for the gradual return to face-to-face classes, starting in areas with zero to negligible incidence of Covid19 infection. Tests in schools should be shouldered by the government. Education of our youth is a major victim of the government’s generalized lockdowns.

The majority of poor Filipinos  who rely on their daily earnings for subsistence are forced to be dishonest during contract tracing activities and shun away from testing because they are afraid to be quarantined lest they go hungry. Contact tracing and testing hesitancy is rife in poor communities.

Duterte boasts that the government can stop the pandemic with vaccines, touted as the silver bullet against the virus.  Indeed, vaccines are effective in the prevention and breaking the chain of contagion if herd immunity is achieved.  Though having been vaccinated is not a fail-safe guarantee from infection (breakthrough infection), data shows that almost all of the breakthrough infections incur mild illness.

Due to the incompetence of the so-called vaccine Czar and his cohorts, we lagged behind in the competition to secure sufficient vaccines from global suppliers.  The first vaccines that arrived in came from the WHO COVAX facility donation.  Limited supplies bought by the government is slowly arriving in trickles.  “Pasang awa” is the apt description of the government vaccine roll out.  With the slow pace of vaccine roll out, by the time 70% of Filipinos are vaccinated, the durability of the effect of the first ones vaccinated has already lapsed- resulting in a vicious cycle of unending vulnerability to the virus.

Vaccine hesitancy is a minor problem, the crucial problem is lack of vaccine supply because the incompetence of the government.

Does the government have sufficient funds for the aforementioned necessary pandemic interventions?

Yes!  If only the government “puts its money where its mouth is”.  From a budget allocation of 153.58B in 2020, DOH share in 2021 decreased by 14.2% to only 131.7B. In particular, the epidemiology and surveillance allocation also decreased, from 11.55B in 2020 to 11.26B only in 2021. On the contrary, the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) allocation increased severalfold, from only 1.08B in 2020 it increased to 19B in 2021.

In its remaining months in office, President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration asked Congress a P28.1 billion budget to fund its anti-insurgency machinery, the NTF-ELCAC in 2022.

Senators questioned Malacañang’s plan to allocate P28 billion to the NTF-ELCAC in 2022 even as it slashed the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine’s proposed laboratory services budget by P170 million.

The 2022 national budget should reflect the national priority of decisively breaking the chain of Covid19 in the coming year.  Control of the pandemic is crucial in the national recovery.#

OPINION | BIDA-GOCC AND CASINOS IN BORACAY DETRIMENTAL TO AKLANONS, FAVORS DUTERTE CRONIES

BIDA-GOCC AND CASINOS IN BORACAY DETRIMENTAL TO AKLANONS, FAVORS DUTERTE CRONIES
OPINION | SIEGFRED D. DEDURO

The bills pending at the House of Representatives (HOR) and the Senate, creating the Boracay Island Development Authority (BIDA) as a GOCC (Government Owned and Controlled Corporation) – is prejudicial to the interest of Aklanons.  House Bill 9826, in substitution of House Bill 6214 of Rep. Paolo Duterte and in consolidation with 9 other House Bills, has been approved in second reading, while Senate Bill No. 1914 counterpart bill of Sen. Cynthia Villar is still pending at the Senate.

The BIDA bills intend to create a GOCC that will control Boracay Island and Barangay Caticlan in mainland Malay where the seaport and new airport is located. The combined population of this area is 40,257 or 67% of the present population of 60,077 (2020) of the Municipality!  This will be a special tourism enclave akin to the authority of special economic zones.

BIDA-GOCC will strip the LGUs of the Province of Aklan and the Municipality of Malay of their regular functions (authority over local and foreign investments, licensing of gaming and tourist operations, control of the natural resources, tourism fees, among others) under the Local Government Code. The LGUs will be left with only their administrative supervision of the barangays under BIDA-GOCC.

Worst of all, the BIDA-GOCC will deprive the LGUs of much-needed locally sourced income that fund social services like provincial and district hospitals. In a meeting of the LGU Malay Stakeholders on July 2018, it was revealed that Boracay accounts for 20% (Php56billion) of the national tourism receipts; 25% of the P2,011,016,309 LGU Aklan Budget and 78.03% of the Php 508,470,083.23 locally sourced income of Malay.

According to a top local official of Aklan, Duterte’s six months closure of Boracay for “rehabilitation” was a cover-up.  The hidden agenda was to eliminate the “eyesores” (poor communities) in the island, in order to reboot it as an elite gambling and tourist destination.  The activities undertaken by the government in closing Boracay for 6 months supports this view.  Hundreds of houses of poor families were demolished.  They were effectively ejected out of the island because the closure deprived them of their source of livelihood.

It was estimated that more than 32,000 workers lost their jobs in the closure of Boracay.  They did not receive enough government assistance and most of them were not able to return to their jobs, especially with the restrictions due to the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said on September 19, 2018 said that the holding capacity (environmentally sustainable population) of the island of Boracay is only 54,945 at any given time, with 19,215 of this figure are foreign and local tourists. Based on the 2018 data (LGU Malay Stake holders Meeting) workers in Boracay before its closure in 2018 was estimated at 50,728. With the current population of Boracay at 32,267 (2020), a huge majority of the local residents will be certainly be ejected.

During Boracay’s closure, most of the business establishments demolished were small and medium size.  Construction of tourist establishments owned by big foreign and local business continued during the closure and until now.

The Villars own Costa de la Vista, a residential condominium development with five high-rise towers. Costa la Vista continued clearing operations of a mountain despite the ban on construction during the closure of the island. In addition to Costa de la Vista, the Villars also own the Boracay Sands Hotel.

The most controversial project is that of giant casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group which plan to develop a casino resort in Boracay, a move which will see the company expanding outside Macau for the first time.

“Galaxy is excited about the possibility of teaming with Leisure and Resorts to develop a world class beach resort for our players in Boracay which was just rated the number one island in the world in 2017 by Conde Nast Traveler readers,” said Francis Lui Yiu Tung, vice chairman of Galaxy Entertainment. He has met with President Duterte on this project. PAGCOR Chairperson Andrea Domingo confirmed that Galaxy was awarded a preliminary license to operate in Boracay.

Galaxy and its partner, Philippines-based Leisure and Resorts World Corp, plan to open a $500m casino in Boracay. “Galaxy would like to play a role in the One Belt One Road initiative and we strongly believe the Philippines has great potential and offers attractive opportunities,” Lui said, referring to China’s economic and diplomatic program to increase trade with countries in the region.

Due to the strong opposition against casinos in Boracay, Duterte tried to hush-hush and defuse popular dissatisfaction over the planned mega-casino, and issued conflicting statements to obfuscate the issue.

During the island’s closure in 2018, DENR Secretary Cimatu, head of the Boracay Inter-agency Task Force in “rehabilitating” the island was barred by security guards from entering the construction site of the Galaxy casino in Barangay Manoc-manoc, Boracay.

The cat is now out of the bag. On August 28, President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed casinos to operate in Boracay Island as part of the government’s revenue-generating efforts to augment funds for its COVID-19 response.  He has given the go-signal for the plans of Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment Group and tycoon Andrew Tan to proceed with their plans to put up integrated casino-resort projects in Boracay Island, according to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR).

Tan, in an official statement, said, “We will proceed with our casino project in Boracay Newcoast. We already have several hotels there and we are still building more.  There is also a golf course, the only one in the entire Boracay Island.”

Casinos are used in large-scale money laundering or making “dirty money” (income from illegal sources) legitimate.  It also breeds immoral activities including organized crimes of trafficking, tax evasion, prostitution and bribery.

On August 30, House Minority Leader Bayan Muna Cong. Zarate said, “President Duterte’s announcement regarding casinos is step two in monopolizing the casinos in Boracay using the yet to be enacted BIDA, which would have the power to contract, lease, buy, sell, acquire, own…real property”.

Moreover, Zarate said that the opening of casinos in the island is mainly for fund generation for the 2022 elections, not as a gold mine for the COVID19 response.

Given Duterte’s penchant in raising money thru gaming operations, such as the POGOs (Philippine Overseas Gaming Operations) owned by Chinese gambling lords targeting mainly Chinese high rollers, it is highly probable that POGOs will be allowed to operate in Boracay.

As an elite gambling and tourism resort, ordinary Filipinos will be deprived access to the once pristine and affordable premier tourist destination in the country.

With the GOCC under Malacanang, control of Boracay and Caticlan  will pave the way for Duterte’s cronies’ complete dominance over the area.#

COVID-19, FIFTH MOST DEADLY DISEASE IN THE COUNTRY

ILOILO – Despite the rising COVID-19 cases being projected in the media by the government and the Inter Agency Task Force, it is only the fifth most deadly disease in the entire country from January until June of this year.

Based on the data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), there are 303,364 total deaths recorded in the entire country for the last 6 months. The top cause of death is ischemic heart disease with 57,757 deaths, which is 18.7% of the total deaths. This is followed by cerebrovascular disease with 30,796 deaths. Moreover, the third deadliest disease in the country is neoplasms or cancer with 27,343 number of deaths, followed by diabetes mellitus with 19,802 deaths, and the fifth deadliest disease is COVID-19 infected deaths with 17,156 or 5.7% of the total number of deaths.

Particular to Western Visayas, there are a total of 28,943 deaths due to various diseases. There are 2,118 deaths in the province of Aklan, 2,242 in the province of Antique, 2,891 in the province of Capiz, 643 in the province of Guimaras, 7,269 in the province of Iloilo, 9,346 in the island of Negros Occidental, 2,580 in the city of Bacolod, and 1,854 in the city of Iloilo. Of which, the entire region has recorded only 661 total COVID-19 identified deaths.

Compared to the previous year, there is an increase of 25% in the total registered deaths for the year 2021. From 289,260, this increased to 361,480.

On the other hand, the healthcare system in the country is still backwards and not the main priority of the government, according to Alliance of Health Workers (AHW). The Department of Health needs not less than Php 171.5 billion funds but the proposed budget for this fiscal year is only Php 131.7 billion which is P39.8 billion less or -23.2%.

According to AHW the budget allocation is too insufficient, especially that we are still facing a public health crisis. According to the group, this only shows that the government has no plan on prioritizing the healthcare programs that are for the benefit of the people. The AHW also states that the funds allocated are not enough to sustain the needs of the people and the public health system.

The AHW also adds that each person has the right to affordable and accessible public health services. However, this remains unattainable due to the government’s privatization of said services instead of making them free.

The group also expresses frustration over the drama that DOH Secretary Duque is stirring after the report of the department’s misused and unused funds. According to the group, they have been told that there are insufficient funds for their hazard pay and benefits but in truth, Duterte, Duque, and their cohorts are the ones benefiting from the people’s taxes.

Because of this, health workers are demanding for Duque’s immediate resignation for his failure and incompetence to run the department.

The health care workers continue to demand, from the Duterte administration, bigger budget allocation to build public hospitals and hire additional health workers. The AHW also demands the immediate release of their hazard pay and the increase in salary of healthcare workers./PT