Kabataan Partylist vehemently condemns Duterte’s incompetence in his response to the pandemic and insistence to reopen the economy amid the sloppy health measures currenty in effect. We also rebuke Duterte’s underhanded pursuit of policies that benefit the ultra-rich and big businesses, to the detriment of the rest of the Filipinos greatly suffering under the health and economic crisis.
The Philippines with its 47,873 cases ranks second in Southeast Asia in terms of number of cases. Yet, we are first in terms of active cases, currently at 34,178. Despite these figures, Malacañang is adamant in its position and living in its own make-believe world that we are winning the fight against the pandemic, citing that most cases are asymptomatic and have mild symptoms, and that the government still has the capacity to give medical aid and as long as “people haven’t died yet”.
These are not mere figures but lives of actual people, and it is outright repulsive to even make claims of victory amid the crystal-clear worsening situation of the country. The administration keeps on banking on the excuse that there is no vaccine yet and that we cannot have complete victory over the current health and economic situation. There is little sense to this, as it fails to grasp the fact that the virus can be contained and its spread curbed to stop further deaths – the call for mass testing, contact tracing, socio-economic aid, along with all the necessary measures oriented towards the improving welfare of the greater public remain stronger than ever before, and the government should focus all efforts towards achieving this.
Duterte wants to reopen the economy citing the shrinking funds for COVID-19 response. However, his administration has failed to be transparent with regards to the nature of the loans it has acquired. The same can be said for the various fiscal policies it aims to implement, chief among which seeks to add tax breaks benefitting big business and the ultra-rich.
The government has for the longest time been quick to tax consumption but has shied away from taxing the richest individuals and companies. According to IBON Foundation, the richest 65 Filipinos, with a combined net worth of P4.1 trillion own more wealth than the poorest 71 million Filipinos combined. Taxing these big businesses and corporations could help fund mass testing and socio-economic aid yet the Duterte administration seeks to do the complete opposite.
This begs the question: why is the burden of the COVID-19 response on the shoulders of regular Filipinos, while the extravagantly rich get to enjoy the comforts of added tax breaks? On top of these neoliberal policies and inept response to the pandemic, the Duterte administration pushed for the immediate passage of the Anti-Terrorism Law – so that when people get hungry, sick, and even worse, die – the state could easily brand dissenters and critics as terrorists, destroying the “peace and order” that the Duterte and his allies are enjoying.
Kabataan Party-list enjoins the broad Filipino masses, especially the youth, to remain critical. Let us continue to dissent and hold Duterte and his cohorts accountable for their negligence. The calls for the health-oriented solutions, socio-economic support, and our resolve to defend our rights remain stronger than ever before. ###