In a surprise 12-minute public address last night, President Rodrigo Duterte conducted his weekly mandated report per the Bayanihan Act. To put it lightly, the public address did not serve its function at all.
One thing is for certain—the president’s statement boasted a glaring lack of plans. Instead of providing concrete and evidence-backed reports, he made severe warnings against citizens who are going against the government. “Kayong mga left, you are not the government,” said Duterte.
The warnings ranged from threatening arrest to extreme force towards dissenters. “Gulo, barilan, o patayan, I will not hesitate to let my soldiers shoot you. Pagka ginulo at nagkaroon ng okasyon na lumaban at ang buhay ninyo ay nalagay sa alanganin, shoot them dead,” said the president.
As far as proactive action goes, the president mentioned that he will support frontliners—without going into detail. He also announced that the distribution of funds and food will be transferred to Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rolando Bautista in order to utilize the department’s existing distribution network.
Still, there is no mention of the P275 billion budget breakdown for COVID-19 relief.
The president seems to forget his request for accountability early in his term. “Do not hesitate to attack me, criticize me, if I do wrong in my job,” said Duterte in 2016. This was in response to being asked about his frustrations with the media. “I am not at liberty to be angry at anybody. It is your sworn duty to ask questions.” Duterte understood the importance of criticism, so why is he responding with threats of violence?
With as much respect as we can muster, we’d like to to give a refresher to the people in power on the basics of our system of government.
Reminder: Elected officials are here to serve their constituents. Power lies in the hands of citizens, and accountability rests in the hands of the people they’ve placed in office. Democracies operate on the notion that sovereignty rests with the people. “Wag ninyong subukan ang gobyerno,” said Duterte last night. This is a test: for the administration to prove that they are here to serve the most vulnerable among us.
Already, people are starting to voice their protests online. And lest anyone forget, freedom of speech is a fundamental democratic and Constitutional right.
Pag nangangampanya sila naabot nila yung bawat sulok ng pilipinas, pamigay ng t-shirt pamaypay etc. Ngayon na kailangan nila tulong, hindi niyo maiabot? ??♀️
— Sofia Andres (@iamsofiaandres) April 1, 2020
275B. Two hundred seventy five billion. 275,000,000,000. We have all the right to know how every single centavo will be spent. Wag niyo palusutin, Pilipinas!!!!
— Khalil Ramos (@TheKhalilRamos) April 1, 2020
Hay Lord, pray for the Philippines and #ProtectVicoAtAllCost. Kawawa ang mga Pilipino, tama na jusko
— Gabbi Garcia ♡ (@gabbi) April 1, 2020
Hindi pananakot ang sagot sa gutom. Hindi pananakot ang solusyon sa #Covid19.
Itigil na ang kalokohan. Solusyon sa gutom ang kailangan. Nasaan ang pondo at pagkain ng taumbayan?
— Kiko Pangilinan (@kikopangilinan) April 1, 2020
If our govt wont act fast, no one can stop a starving population from looting, rallying, or fighting for what they deserve. It’s only a matter of time. Not being a pessimist but we’ve seen this incident happen all over the world. Govts exist to fully serve the people. #Ideally https://t.co/6JQ4nmjBFx
— Enchong Dee (@enchongdee777) April 1, 2020
“they have money for wars, but can’t feed the poor”
— Jess Connelly (@jessconnelly) April 1, 2020
Di lang si Mayor Vico. Pati ordinaryong mamamayang nagpo-post ng hinaing online, pinapatawag ng NBI. Tinanggap ko ang kasong ito dahil di na makatao ang nangyayari. Ang dami nang namamatay, pati frontliners, pero imbis na COVID, kritiko ang gusto nilang puksain. #ProtectThePeople pic.twitter.com/IoGjLQk1wr
— Chel Diokno (@ChelDiokno) April 2, 2020
REMOVE YOUR ROSE COLORED GLASSES, BANSA NATIN DUGUAN NA.
— Maris Racal (@MissMarisRacal) April 1, 2020
Takot na nga yung mga tao because of this virus. Their own government is depriving them of food, their officials are MIA, one was parading about without following guidelines and you have the nerve to scare them even more with violence? WHY? How is that helpful?
— Lauren Young (@loyoung) April 1, 2020
As things are turning out, COVID-19 is not the worst virus in our country. There are some that are worse. Unfortunately, they make decisions.
— PING LACSON (@iampinglacson) April 1, 2020
Let our response be “anuna”
— Jeff Canoy (@jeffcanoy) April 1, 2020
As history has demonstrated, the Filipino people have proven their power time and again. Just look at your basic history books for the seminal People Power revolutions. Even easier, look to the hashtags on your phones. If you want something even simpler, we’ll quote Barbie, a children’s cartoon character from Toy Story 3: “Authority should derive from the consent of the governed, not from the threat of force.”
Read more: I never understood protests until I joined one
Mr. President, the people you serve do not need—nor deserve—your surprise late night threats. They need effective leadership and urgent response from you, and they need it now.
Art by Kristine Paz-Yap