Friday, April 3, 2020

Akbayan Calls for Vigilance Against Corruption and Abuse amid Humanitarian Crisis

Just over a week, since President Duterte signed the Bayanihan to Heal as One (BAHO) Act, the emergency powers vested on him bared its fangs on the Filipino people.

Alongside the increase of cases of COVID-19, there seems to be an outbreak of violence and rights violations too. Last March 27, a teacher and her son were arrested in General Santos City for criticizing the mayor's inaction on food distribution. On April 1, the NBI filed a case against Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto for insisting on ferrying health workers with tricycles in the city. Later that evening, in reaction to public protest by residents of Sitio San Roque to clamor for food, Duterte ordered the military to "shoot them [any protesters] dead" in a nationwide address. In the morning of April 2, Atty. Chel Diokno released to the public that the NBI has filed subpoenas to individuals for critical opinions on social media.

It is clear in these cases how the BAHO Act has been weaponized to punish and silence critics of the government's insufficient response to the pandemic. The Filipino people need food, cash aid, and solidarity but are instead met with fear and threats of violence. This litany of abuses against civil liberties will continue to grow if we are to turn a blind eye to their actions - precisely what they want by keeping the people silent.

Our vigilance is part of our social solidarity. Government has launched today the social packages for the 18 million families. While we welcome this to aid struggling Filipino families, we demand the transparent and detailed breakdown of the P275 billion. We warn against red tape, unauthorized fees and other impediments in accessing the assistance. We continue our vigilance against corruption and abuse amidst this humanitarian crisis.

The solidarity of the people keep us strong. The health workers who take long shifts, the farmers and fisherfolk who put food on our table, and the ordinary volunteers and donors have kept us safe and strong in the middle of this crisis. While the government continues to threaten us while failing to keep us safe, we must continue to stand for each other against the sickness and the excessive violence they throw at us.

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