As President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA), workers and labor rights advocates lamented the real state of the nation which is marked with government’s incompetence, tyranny, corruption and foreign debt. After 4 years, the Filipinos expected nothing more but false promises, lies and fear-mongering from the President’s speech and that’s exactly what he delivered.
The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) highlighted that the absence of a concrete plan of the government is responsible for the rising number of cases of COVID-19 in the country. “The Filipino workers continue to suffer the consequences of this government’s incompetent actions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands contact the disease inside and outside their workplaces and are left to fend for themselves. Millions lost their jobs and have no one to turn to for assistance. Workers and unionists continue to face harassment and other threats to their rights, as they resist intensified unfair labor practices and attacks,” CTUHR underscored.
With nearly six months into the battle against COVID-19, the Duterte administration has failed to deliver healthcare and economic needs of the people and is unable to prevent the spread of the virus during his militarist lockdown. As Duterte delivered his 5th SONA, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has already reached 82,040 based on the recent report of the Department of Health (DOH).
The COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s incompetence has also brough about the worst jobs crisis in recent history. The Philippine Statistics Authority has recorded 7.3 million Filipino unemployed, as of April 2020. The think-tank IBON Foundation, estimates that the unemployment rate is at 21% which is equivalent to 14 million Filipinos.
Many business establishments, especially the micro, small and medium enterprises, have been closing down due to unprecedented economic recession. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has reported 3,012 companies have closed down temporarily due to the pandemic and the lockdown. CTUHR also underscored the massive debt that the Duterte administration has incurred. The Bureau of Treasury report says that P9 trillion has been incurred since the start of this pandemic. But none of these loans have made a significant development in the fight against COVID-19. Government aid for those whose jobs and livelihoods have been lost, came late and was insufficient.
The group also raised that the government policy and measures on the fight for COVID-19 is being weaponized to curtail democratic rights and instill fear among the people. Instead of free mass testing, it has prioritized the much opposed and feared, anti-democratic Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 which is clearly a weapon against critics and activists. It has even pushed for the shutdown of the biggest media outfit in the country amid the pandemic. “With these actions, it has become clear that this government is more focused on suppressing dissent rather than addressing the urgent needs of the people,” the Center said.
CTUHR also slammed Duterte’s claim in his speech that the Martial Law in Mindanao ended without abuses. “Danny Boy Bautista, a worker and unionist in the multinational banana plantation, Sumifru Philippines in Compostela Valley was killed last October 31, 2018, while Mindanao was under Martial rule,” CTUHR said. Even before the Martial law, state forces have been used by big corporations against resisting workers. Danny Boy is a proof that Martial Law in Mindanao resulted to grave human rights violations.
In fact, the Philippines has been consistently tagged for 4 years as one of the Top 10 most dangerous countries for working people, according to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Global Rights Index. CTUHR has recorded 50 killings among the ranks of workers, trade unionists and labor rights defenders under the Duterte regime. 2 of which have been killed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The workers and the Filipino people deserve a government that prioritizes the needs of the people, especially amidst this crisis. We can no longer endure the incompetence and insensitivity of this administration which brings us to more dangers and plunges us to worse poverty. This pandemic has exposed the rotten governance that we have. We must not remain silent; we must use our voices to fight the abuses and ineptness of this government. We deserve a better government,” CTUHR ended.