DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to the security forces to implement the country’s action plan to contain the deadly coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) does not sit well among various groups demanding immediate medical-based action to deal with the pandemic.
Following the signing of the bill granting him emergency powers on Tuesday, the President directed former and current military and police generals to oversee the National Action Plan (NAP), recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, in addressing the spread of the disease.
Bayan Muna Party-list, however, questioned the appointment of military men to implement the said action plan.
House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate asked if the Philippines is now in a state of undeclared martial rule and a de facto junta is now running the country.
“Sec. Galvez’s latest appointment as the czar of a supposedly highly health, medical and economic crisis we are facing due to COVID-19, only bolsters the argument that the current ‘enhanced community quarantine’ or lockdown in many parts of the country is an undeclared martial law and the main strategy of the government to address this crisis,” Zarate said.
Pres. Duterte, in a taped public address, said that the NAP will be chaired by Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana and co-chaired by Interior Sec. Eduardo Ano, along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
He added that along with the DND and DILG, the Department of Health and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) are some of the “important departments now in action.”
Pres. Duterte also appointed former military chief and peace process chief Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. as the chief implementer of the government’s action plan on addressing the coronavirus pandemic.
“A health or medical expert along with an experienced progressive economist or national planner would have been better appointed as co-chairs and implementers as they would be more attuned to what is needed to address the crisis we are facing – one that requires not a militarist framework,” added Davao-based Zarate.
Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite also hit the “piling up of abuses” resulting from the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine, including the recent incident of a police officer threatening and cursing some residents in a control point in Quiapo, Manila.
“Incidents as these where authorities are abusing their powers under the community quarantine would keep on happening especially now that Duterte has placed military officers at the helm of the government’s COVID-19 response. With fascists at the wheel of the National Action Plan, it would not be a surprise if they treat the lockdown as a hamlet. But let me remind our authorities, a community quarantine is not a military hamlet,” Rep. Gaite said.
A human rights group in Davao Region also hit the militarist approach in managing the pandemic, with a number of cases now breaching 700-mark.
“We reiterate that this Covid-19 pandemic is a health concern, not a peace and order issue that necessitates a medical and rights-based response,” said Jay Apiag, secretary-general of Karapatan Southern Mindanao Region.
He urged the government to reposition its resources, including intelligence and military funds, towards health and economic programs to aid millions of Filipinos affected by the threat of the virus and imposition of lockdown. (davaotoday.com)