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Statement I COVID-19: A Crisis of Failed Leadership

COVID-19: A CRISIS OF FAILED LEADERSHIP

Joint Statement of the Council of Priests and National Priests Organization Calling for the Resignation of President Rodrigo Duterte

The Council of Priests (COP) and National Priests Organization (NPO) of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) strongly decry the ineffective and unresponsive action mounted by President Rodrigo Duterte’s government to eliminate the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic — a response that, one month after Luzon was placed under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), has miserably failed in stopping the surge of cases.

Even as half of the country’s population is under militarized lockdown, the Philippines now yields the most COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia. This is a clear indication that, despite receiving unprecedented emergency powers, the President has still failed to institute measures to arrest the infections and rescue those who have been most vulnerable to the disease and its impacts on the health-care system and family life.

Stubbornly refusing the sound advice for a comprehensive medical solution, President Duterte has deprived the health sector of the necessary support; leaving front-liners, patients and their communities ill-equipped and immobilized in the battle against the coronavirus. As this tragedy unfurls, the bureaucracy has lost a sense of urgency and humanitarianism. The national bureaucracy has been slow to release relief assistance to many families and to institute a mechanism for free mass testing. The government’s apparent ineptness and inutility in addressing the public health emergency, and its indifference to the poor’s welfare and the people’s wellbeing, are more lethal than the virus itself.

While the government fails to provide our baseline needs amid the pandemic, the militarism continues. Duterte cronies and military big men continue to lead the response, shoving the great need for medical and humanitarian help in the backburner. Given how little is known about COVID-19 transmission and the longevity of the pandemic, the response should also immediately beef up our information, treatment and testing efforts, as well as our measures to provide relief and social services that are resilient to crisis. The crux of the response is still military, police and other enforcers of public order sentineling our neighborhoods, a response that has banked on brute force, manhandling and arrests. This has inevitably muffled legitimate demands from social activists, people’s organizations and affected communities.

As this disproportionately militaristic approach persists, the people who are by no means impervious to COVID-19 and the medical personnel who are responding to the core issue – the medical issue right at the root of this emergency – suffer. President Duterte’s COVID-19 response unmasks his despicable fascist ideology, and his twisted worldview’s inherent shortcomings in addressing the health and wellbeing of citizens. It exposes a government that would needlessly prove its military might to its people rather than focus on combatting the virus head on with decisive solutions to the health emergency and to the humanitarian crisis a failed response has birthed.

Thus, we hold President Duterte accountable for the nightmarish situation our nation now finds itself in. With people infected with COVID-19 and some succumbing to it, he has unflinchingly neglected the people by implementing a response that has not curbed COVID-19 and has, instead, enabled it to wreak greater havoc. COVID-19 is more than a health crisis already. Now, we are also suffering political and socioeconomic crises of unequalled proportions. This complex crisis we are mired in is the making of a failed leadership.

For a botched response to COVID-19 and a consistent failure to prioritize the nation at many turns in his presidency, we see no reason for President Duterte to continue leading the country. We now join the clamor for his immediate resignation. We ask the President to hand his position over to someone more capable of leading the nation out of this trouble. Otherwise, the COVID-19 crisis could just plunge our country into depths we cannot rise from.

Rev. Fr. Noel Dacuycuy
Chairperson
Council of Priests

Rev. Fr. Jonash Joyohoy
Governor General
National Priests Organization

April 15, 2020

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