The Philippines and Coronavirus


Jacqueline Kim, Staff Writer

With the COVID-19 outbreak that has turned the entire world on its heels, we are implementing global measures to stop the spread of the virus. With a capable government and a cooperative population, in hand with medical resources, provisions and adequate funds, nations around the world have been able to combat the pandemic. However, in the Philippines, a nation bearing about 1.41% of the world’s population and over 109 million people, citizens and locals are deprived of these aids and reserves. 

The greatest issue may even lie within the central government. In efforts to curtail the spreading of the corona virus in the densely populated regions of the Philippines, the government has taken to martial and violent means. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has begun to permit the military as well as local authorities to use deadly force against offenders of lockdown procedures and social distancing implementations. The extent of this lethal force even authorizes officials to shoot resisters of the new regulations, as well as abuse of uncooperative medical officials. On a televised address on Wednesday, April 1st, Duterte addressed this concern to the nation’s residents, stating, “My orders to the police and military … if there is trouble and there’s an occasion that they fight back and your lives are in danger, shoot them dead. Is that understood? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I will bury you.” 

In addition to these unnecessary and insensible arrangements, the responses of several officials towards violators of these new implementations follow suit with their president’s violent take. On March 24th, Duterte enforced a charge that would enable him exclusive authorization in response to the outbreak, in the form of “emergency powers.” In addition to this, Duterte has administered a “national action plan” to be carried out by military force in order to protect the nation and “maintain peace.” However, many local officials across the nation have come to open up about brutal punishments and abusive measures they’d taken to respond to offenders of the curfew as well as the quarantine standards. Perpetrators have been punished by arrest and confinement in dog cages set in the midday sun. Since the start of the lockdown on March 16th, hundreds of citizens and residents throughout the country have been arrested for violating minor regulations, receiving absurd and vugar punishments. Officials in Santa Cruz now face various charges after confessing to locking several people, including two minors, inside of a dog cage, simply for violating curfew. According to reports, the officials had threatened to shoot the residents if they resisted getting into the cage. The crudely austere responses and reactions of officials throughout the nation have suggested that the nation is incompetent in properly managing these breaches in the law, with their president to blame.

In addition to this, the nation as a whole suffers from its great lack of proper resources to combat this pandemic. There is a great lack of proper testing resources throughout the country, and the country’s health workers are becoming overwhelmed and exhausted, with a deficient health care budget. The few COVID-19 tests available are beyond the financial means of many residents, and this may continue the spread of the virus, as unknowing carriers continue about their daily lives, untested and untreated. Prisons and checkpoints of detainment for violators remain severely overcrowded, and actually counteract efforts in social distancing, while advancing the spread of the virus.

The enforcement of this lockdown has most dramatically impacted the poorer communities through Manila. The lockdown has denied travel through the capital , prohibiting residents and workers from travelling in and out of the area, as well as detaining more than 12 million citizens within the region. However, the greatest concerns pertain to financial and healthcare aids, which the government has appeared to neglect. In addition to this, these densely populated areas and slums can not even afford to follow social distancing regulations, while poor housing and street conditions deny proper hygiene edicate.

Thousands of residents have lost jobs as well as wages to this sudden lockdown, and remain stranded in monetary jeopardy, unsure how to provide for their families moving forward, for however long this lockdown may last. Government officials have worked to permit commuters to return to work under the condition that they provide confirmation of employment. However, this disregards the thousands of unregistered workers that work in independent, self-employment as street vendors, car-repairmen, and retail traders. These smaller businesses and organizations are completely deserted, and leave thousands unemployed and panicked, as though abandoned and left to fend for themselves. 

In response to these circumstances, many throughout the poorer regions in Manila took to the streets in an act of protest. In response to the outbreak, local officials responded indifferently and insensitively to the protests by arresting twenty residents who refused to disperse from the site. Following the demonstration, President Duterte addressed his citizens over broadcasts, saying that whoever defied his orders next would be quickly detained and dealt with. “I will not hesitate,” Duterte warned. “My orders are to the police and military, as well as village officials: if there is any trouble, or occasions where there’s violence and your lives are in danger, shoot them dead. Do not intimidate the government. Do not challenge the government. You will lose. I will not hesitate to order the police to arrest and detain you. Now, if you are detained, I will leave it up to you to find food.”

Many residents and families throughout the Philippines are suffering greatly because of their lack of proper provisions as well as their incompetent and violent government. It is crucial that we remain conscious of situations and circumstances that may be poorer than our own, so that we may continue to offer any other means of support.

We must remain informed of the news around the world. We are all combating the same virus, and the same fears, and it is essential that we, as a nation and as a race, come together to support others in circumstances less fortunate than our own. Many in the Philippines, and quite frankly, many around the world, lack proper resources and care and are forced to face even more challenging situations. By whatever means we can offer, we must continue to support one another around the globe, but this support must first start with awareness.