President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday claimed that the health workers’ plea for a two-week relief from the surge of cases was a form of “revolution” despite their petitions telling otherwise.
Through separate petitions posted on Facebook over the weekend, more than 80 medical societies and another group of health care professionals called Second Opinion Philippines urged the national government for tighter measures for 15 days amid the continued surge of patients infected with the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19.
As of August 3, the country has 106,330 COVID-19 cases with 3,226 additional infections.
Of these, 38,405 are active cases, 2,104 are deaths and 65,821 are recoveries.
Last Sunday, August 2, the country breached the 100,000-mark with 103,185 COVID-19 cases.
‘Huwag ho kayo mag-sigaw-sigaw ng revolution niyo’
In his late-night national address on Sunday, Duterte initially acknowledged the COVID-19 frontliners’ appeal and approved the Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s recommendation to revert Mega Manila—the National Capital Region and nearby provinces Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan— to the modified enhanced community version from August 4 to 18.
However, the president called the healthcare workers’ public plea as a “spectacle” and told them that the government is doing its best to “alleviate the situation.”
“Now ngayon kung sabihin ninyo na anong mabuti and you raise the spectacle of ‘yung ang agony ninyo, you treat it as if you are about ready to stop to work. Huwag naman ganoon kasi kawawa ang mga kababayan natin. Sinong maasahan namin?” Duterte said.
“I don’t know. I’m sure that is not in your heart. But from your maybe despair, I would like to tell you that ang ating gobyerno ay hindi mag — mag-iwan ng mga trabahante niya. So to my fellow countrymen, we are doing everything possible to alleviate the situation, to assist our healthcare workers and enhance our healthcare system,” he added.
Duterte then proceeded to rant against what he claimed the medical workers sought, that is, a form of revolution.
“Now, if you think that this can be solved by revolution, then by all means, we start it. Mas gusto ko. Kung magsabi kayo, nagtaas na kayo, revolution, revolution, go ahead because I would be calling all people who love their country to come forward and work for the people,” he said.
In the same speech, the chief executive also issued a threat to the healthcare workers: “Next time, you can just ask for an audience. Pero huwag ho kayo mag-sigaw-sigaw ng revolution niyo. Alam mo, sa totoo, alam niyo hindi ninyo ako kilala talaga. Magsabi kayo revolution, then ngayon na. Go ahead. Try it. Sirain natin itong bayan. Patayin natin lahat ng may COVID.”
Moreover, throughout his speech, the president also rambled on from having no money and resources into encouraging the nurses to join the government and the police because of “high salaries.”
In a press briefing on Monday, August 3, presidential spokesman Harry Roque questioned why Duterte was the “last to know” about the medical workers’ “demands.”
The country’s health woes have been the subject of public dissent online and also translated into outdoor protests since last March.
“Pero tingin ko dapat sagutin nila: Why was the President the last to know about their demands at ipinaalam muna nila sa buong mundo bago nila ibinigay kay Presidente iyong gusto nilang mangyari?” Roque said.
The response of the medical sector
In another statement posted on Facebook on the same day, Second Opinion Philippines reiterated that what they called for was a “demilitarized medical quarantine.”
“We demand a health sector-led COVID-19 response and propose the immediate implementation of a six-point action plan based on the six pillars of the PH healthcare system. We demand a DEMILITARIZED MEDICAL QUARANTINE,” the group said.
We want a medical quarantine with healthcare workers in the lead and WITH CLEAR HEALTH GOALS AND OUTCOMES.We reject…
They also attached the link of their previous statement and an infographic of their proposed six-point action plan on their post.
Some healthcare workers from the Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center in Manila also staged a “snake rally” to protest the death of their colleague and demanded more protection for medical frontliners.
Health workers from Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center in Manila hold a "snake rally" protest on Monday, denouncing the death of their fellow health worker and demanding the protection of medical frontliners. pic.twitter.com/VnF3q2VfRK
— The Philippine Star (@PhilippineStar) August 3, 2020
Some doctors took to Twitter to air their ire and disappointment, citing that Duterte failed anew to recognize and address the problems of the country’s healthcare system.
“This new lockdown is NOT what the healthcare workers were asking for. In fact, it was the exact opposite of what they demanded and recommended,” Gideon Lasco said.
This new lockdown is NOT what the healthcare workers were asking for. In fact, it was the exact opposite of what they demanded and recommended.
— Gideon Lasco (@gideonlasco) August 2, 2020
Dr. Jonathan Sy and Florin Hilbay, who was also a former senatorial candidate and solicitor general, decried Duterte’s description of the healthcare workers’ cries for help as a revolution.
We doctors aren’t calling for a revolution.
We doctors can go on strike, however.
I’m not saying we should. I’m just saying we can.
— Jonathan E. Sy (@easy_jonathan) August 3, 2020
di rebolusyon ang humingi ng plano
di rebolusyon ang magpayo ng solusyon
di rebolusyon ang magtanong nasan ang pera ng bayan
di rebolusyon ang mangulit ng aksyong may saysay
di rebolusyon ang kritisismo
di rebolusyon paghingi ng ayuda
di rebolusyon isa-publiko ang hinaing
— Pilo Hilbay (@fthilbay) August 3, 2020
Some doctors, meanwhile, argued that the government’s treatment of COVID-19 as a war instead of a health crisis is already wrong, to begin with.
“To see this pandemic from a military viewpoint is to accept that lives will be lost, that people are enemies of each other. That’s not how we do medicine,” Twitter user @ronibats said.
“It is a public health disaster (as it already overwhelms our capacity to cope) and it needs to be addressed as such. Stop the militarization of COVID. We cannot bomb our way out of this,” Twitter user @JohnGuilaranalso said.