If there is one system that the Duterte government has managed to effortlessly lay into place and practice, it would be that of finger pointing. At the onset of this administration, the campaign promise that placed President Duterte into power was to blame a specific set of individuals as the root of our nation’s ails. This would be correct if those set of individuals were labeled as the congress, but no, they were labeled as drug addicts.
Should the war on drugs have been rooted in a place of research and basic empathy, there would have been more effort and budget allocated for rehabilitation and improving the livelihood of those who were actually victimized by addicts. Instead, droves of lower income families were displaced and executed. Are the poor really to blame? Or should we hold the obscenely rich accountable? Those on the upper echelons of society that do drugs AND prey on these poor communities as scapegoats when someone needs to take responsibility?
Should the war on drugs have been rooted in a place of research and basic empathy, there would have been more effort and budget allocated for rehabilitation and improving the livelihood of those who were actually victimized by addicts.
The answer here is clear. Sadly, it’s not just the poor that were lambasted by this government.
In the past 4 years, they have belittled universities, religious communities and well-meaning private sectors protesting unfair labor practices, media censorship and elitist traffic systems. This is the same administration that gave a meager P1,000 budget to our Commission on Human Rights as we continue to live in a country with disturbingly high human rights abuses.
Now, the World Health Organization has just declared the coronavirus as a pandemic. And guess who we find ourselves turning to?
1. University researchers
During the Senate budget hearing for the Department of Agriculture, Sen. Cynthia Villar infamously said, “Parang lahat ng inyong budget puro research? Baliw na baliw kayo sa research. Aanhin niyo ba yung research?” The answer to that being a COVID-19 testing kit developed by none other than scientists from the University of the Philippines. A state university often attacked by those in power as being “tuition-wasters” and “puro rally lang.”
2. Human Rights defenders
The back and forth between the president and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) was a well-documented, much-debated saga that rose to dramatic heights in the midst of the bloody drug war. Now, as people are panic buying sanitation supplies while being forced into flimsy “social distancing” guidelines—which are impossible to follow with our public transport system and labor conditions by the way—we need human rights defenders more than ever. In our own ways, we can help preserve the dignity of human life. The best way to start as of now? Sanitize, cover your mouth and don’t hoard supplies. When it’s safe, there are more proactive ways to help.
3. Health care providers
Right as the country plunged into a resurgence of polio, measles and dengue outbreaks, the Congress voted to slash our health budget by P10-billion. To quote senior minority leader Garin, “How can we then describe the status of the DOH budget under the proposed budget? Quick answer: it seems health is not a priority for those in government who are supposed to display compassion.”
“It seems health is not a priority for those in government who are supposed to display compassion.”
Now the country’s health crisis includes a global pandemic. And guess where the local officials will be going for checkup and health care? Private hospitals, of course. No need to be subsidized by public welfare when they can just use our taxes straight from the barrel.
4. Minimum wage workers
After being told to do social distancing, the working class then have to commute in crowded, unmaintained public transport because the government doesn’t believe in the traffic armageddon plaguing Metro Manila. Then, they have to go check in at work because not all types of jobs can be done remotely. They go about their day, fearing for their safety and not having a choice but to work because they can’t afford losing a day’s worth of salary. Do they have enough emergency leaves to make sure they’re covered financially until the pandemic tides over? No one can know for sure. But these workers keep the economy running by showing up at their posts, making sure transactions are pushing through and services are still being made available.
Do they have enough emergency leaves to make sure they’re covered financially until the pandemic tides over? No one can know for sure.
5. All of us
The first impression to this entire situation is that, to our local government, some lives are not as valuable as others. Only basketball legends get memorials. As an honest citizen, death is just a thing that happens. In the current crisis, us Filipinos have to DIY govern by doing our best to consciously avoid each other’s personal spaces and not hoard supplies in order to leave rations for everyone.
This realization, while sobering, can be a thing of empowerment. We need to support these sectors more than ever, even if we have to do it ourselves. Aside from that, we need to make sure to always make people remember. After all, it is not above this government to manufacture some serious historical revisionism. At present, it’s our chance to document and share everything.
They can’t call all of us liars.
Art by Zaila Mae Urmeneta