For Immediate Release
March 20, 2020
Contact: Irma Shauf-Bajar, National Chairperson, email@example.com
Organizing the People’s Action for Health and Human Rights
GABRIELA USA joins the fight against inept government response in the time of COVID-19
During this time of ever growing cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), GABRIELA USA joins the global community in calling for continual organizing and the assertion of the people’s need for free and accessible healthcare as a basic human right. As COVID-19 grips communities in the Philippines and around the world, we will continue to see the heightening contradictions of Imperialism, revealing the cracks in both Philippine and US systems that do not serve the people. We see these systems that prioritize profit and the militarization and criminalization of communities, instead of systems that ensure the well being of the people and protect their overall basic human rights.
In the US Filipinos remain in the frontline of the pandemic as medical staff, nurses, caregivers, grocery store workers, food service workers, delivery drivers, and seafarers who continue their work, in what have been deemed essential industries. For poor and working class Filipinos, like the rest of the working class in the US, cuts in work hours and the lack of a financial safety net from Trump’s administration during the pandemic has made poor families vulnerable to evictions and utility shut offs. Meanwhile the US government has prioritized the bailing out of Wall Street with $1.5 trillion injected into the financial system.
In the Philippines the Duterte regime focuses on further militarization rather than providing adequate medical solutions to control the spread of COVID-19 and protecting public health. Enhanced Community Quarantine began in Metro Manila, and now extends for all of Luzon, restricting travel in and out of the area from March 15 until April 14 but also prohibiting mass gatherings during the period. The Duterte regime has militarized the lockdown by deploying 40,000 armed military and police across the National Capital Region and in other provinces to enforce checkpoints.
No action has been taken by the Philippine government to address continuing problems with the provision of water to communities throughout Metro Manila, increasing the likelihood of the spread of the virus amongst poor communities who cannot wash their hands frequently, due to lack of access to water. Supplies needed for public protection (such disinfectants) also have not been distributed.
Duterte’s regime has failed in not providing timely and accurate information to the public on how to combat COVID-19. Duterte has not ensured the allocation of enough resources to provide widespread free testing and monitoring, nor has he secured sufficient basic supplies such as N95 facemasks and other personal protective equipment needed to protect healthcare workers on the frontlines serving those infected. The Duterte regime also has not created systems to safely quarantine and treat infected persons in facilities. The dire healthcare situation in the Philippines reflects the slashes made in the national budget, by Duterte, that reduced state funding for healthcare infrastructure, which is desperately needed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Under Duterte’s Enhanced Community Quarantine, many workplaces have either laid off workers or decreased their hours. Duterte has locked down Metro Manila without putting in place protections for workers to maintain their livelihoods and has offered no financial assistance for workers’ lost wages. Without assistance from Duterte’s government, Filipino workers face an additional health crisis as they fight off hunger and struggle to feed their families with shrinking incomes or with no work.
The Duterte regime has imposed its militarized Enhanced Community Quarantine supposedly to address the spread of COVID-19, but has instead used the lockdown to press down further on democratic rights and unleash more fascism on the people. Duterte claims that the lockdown is not martial law but the armored police and military he has deployed threaten and harass the people and have created more fear and panic. GABRIELA USA denounces all attempts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to use COVID-19 and the declaration of Enhanced Community Quarantine as a cover to justify human rights violations against activists and others speaking out against Duterte’s anti-people policies.
The fight against COVID-19 in the Philippines should be handled through providing medical and social services by civilian authorities, such as public health experts and healthcare workers, and not by fear mongering and intimidation by military and police forces. Instead of a militarized lockdown Duterte’s regime should provide a comprehensive response to combat the spread of COVID-19. We reiterate GABRIELA’s calls to address the demands of the people:
- Free medical testing services in every barangay instead of police and military presence in our communities
- Immediate re-alignment of the P27.1-billion national spending budget, and if still necessary, the President Duterte’s P4.5 billion confidential and intelligence funds for COVID-19 prevention, monitoring, testing and treatment
- Free distribution of health kits in every barangay: face masks, alcohol, vitamin C, and massive information drive on how to deal with COVID-19, not warnings and threats of arrests
- Concrete alternative solutions and government assistance package for all affected workers
- Strict regulation of prices especially for our basic needs
- 24/7 uninterrupted supply of running and clean water for every household and suspension of any water rate hike
- Adequate government support for our local scientists and frontline health workers
Filipino women remain on the frontline, both in workplaces and at home, in crucial positions that impact the health of our community, families and children. GABRIELA USA takes seriously the recommendations and health precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19. GABRIELA USA calls on members and supporters to organize a collective people’s response to protect against the spread of the virus, and also to protect the most marginalized of our societies–workers who continue to provide necessary services and goods despite risks posed by COVID-19, the poor, the sick and vulnerable. In the face of the failing systems in the US and the Philippines, let us advance with determination and decisiveness the people’s movement, to defend our communities. Now more than ever let us unite collectively to defend not only against COVID-19, but also to fight for the peoples’ right to livelihood, a free and accessible healthcare system for all, and freedom from militarization and repression!
Proteksyon sa kalusugan at kabuhayan! (Protection for health and livelihood!)
Solusyong medikal, hindi aksyong militar! (Medical solutions, not military action!)