While Filipino netizens were rallying behind the #ProtectVico tag on social media when news broke out that Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto was summoned by the National Bureau of Investigation for possible violation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (R.A. 11469), Pres. Rodrigo Duterte gave a surprise media briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic on the night of Apr. 1 that would later heighten public dissatisfaction and even outrage.
Since the Mar. 30 deadline for the president’s report to Congress as required by the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the public has been waiting for a detailed update on the use and allocation of the P275 billion worth of COVID-19 response public funds. In his latest address, the first mention of our nation’s supply was when he said, “Ang ating suplay hanggang diyan lang ‘yan ‘yung inabot kasi hindi natin alam ganun kabilis. In two days’ time, patay ka. So we are trying to manage na lahat magkaroon equally. Equally is equally, pera pati pagkain. Ano ‘yung parte ko, parte mo ‘yan.”
“I am addressing the left na ‘yung pambabastos ninyo, ‘yung slamming about the distribution. Remember kayong mga left: You are not the government. Naintindihan ninyo ‘yan? Hindi kayo nasa gobyerno and you cannot be a part of what we are planning to do for the nation,” he adds. The administration’s COVID-19 response has been highly criticized for denying the immediate need for mass testing, the deployment of military personnel in checkpoints under the enhanced community quarantine and the alleged VIP testing of government officials. The administration has been defending itself from these criticisms.
In the afternoon of Apr. 1, 20 protesters were apprehended by the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) after they staged a rally to call out the government for allegedly not providing them food packs. The protesters were part of Samahan Ng Magkakapitbahay, a group led by residents of Sitio San Roque, Quezon City. In response to the incident, Pres. Duterte said, “Gulo o barilan o patayan, I will not hesitate my soldiers to shoot you. I will not hesitate to order the police to arrest and detain you.” It isn’t the first report of a community struggling with hunger. Local government units (LGUs) and local businesses have been trying to come up with food distribution programs as financial assistance has yet to reach various places in Luzon. “My orders are sa pulis pati military, pati mga barangay na pagka ginulo at nagkaroon ng okasyon na lumaban at ang buhay ninyo ay nalagay sa alanganin, shoot them dead,” he warned.
The QC government said the protestors arrested earlier along Edsa in Quezon City were allegedly instigated by yet “unknown” personalities to stage the rally and claim that they have not received food packs from the local government. | @khallareINQ https://t.co/gpPZhKwkyz
On Mar. 31, The The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) issued a guide on availing the government’s social amelioration package included in the Emergency Subsidy Program (ESP) they are rolling out with the help of LGUs. Pres. Duterte reiterated this by saying, “Kaya ngayon DSWD na at ‘yung pera DSWD pati si Secretary Galvez. Naintindihan ninyo ‘yan? Wala na kayong pakialam. Tinanggal ko na ang politiko. Puro na ito sa gobyerno. Mga military ito pero retired. Civilian na ‘yan.” The administration was previously questioned for appointing military officials, instead of health experts, to implement the National Action Plan (NAP) against COVID-19. “Do not entertain doubts about dishonesty and corruption,” he ordered.
Red tape at the DSWD is obstructing the distribution of cash assistance to poor families in the grip of the national health emergency, Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr. said. | @deejayapINQhttps://t.co/AUqOxImv5r
The president gave this warning for anyone looking to steal food or money from the fund, “Kung may—walang magdating na pang-kontra ng COVID, then hanggang matapos itong mundong ito diyan ka sa kulungan. ‘Yan ang gusto mo, nag-warning na ako gagawain mo pa rin. Eh ‘di gusto mo. Hiningi mo ‘yan eh. Hiningi mo ‘yan.” “Magtiis na lang siguro kayo ng delayed delivery pero dadating ‘yan at hindi ka magugutom. Hindi ka mamamatay sa gutom,” he said despite reports of individuals attempting to take their own lives because they had nothing to feed their families.
Regarding additional support for frontliners, Pres. Duterte warned against harassment of health workers. “Yung mga frontliners, huwag kayong mag-alala. I will support and defend you,” he said.
Concerning public outcry for Vico Sotto’s alleged violation in spite of the Constitution prohibiting laws that criminalize an act committed before its passage, the president asserted, “I will not tolerate ‘yang sabihin mo na bitawan mga politiko, bitawan. Do not play hero at this time because you would abet or is it that word—to encourage people to violate the law.”
The address garnered a deafening reaction as the public demands to be given aid and accountability instead of threats in the middle of a health crisis.