There are growing calls for Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte to resign over his government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, corruption and brutality.
The National Chair of the coalition Laban ng Masa (People’s Struggle), Waldon Bello recently wrote in Rappler: “In 2020, there were calls for the resignation of President Duterte when he dared health workers to stage a revolution against him because they had criticised the government’s militarised response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“Had Duterte heeded those calls, so many of the over 14,700 people who have died so far would still be with us today. Before thousands more people die, the best thing that this paralysed deer of a president and his incompetent gang can do for our suffering people is to resign and let more competent people take over the helm.”
The following statement was launched on April 15 and has been signed by hundreds of medical frontline workers, educators, youth leaders, religious figures, lawyers, civic leaders and concerned citizens.
For the past five years we have watched President Duterte’s incompetence, brutality, corruption and kowtowing to foreign powers destroy democratic governance as we know it. The COVID-19 pandemic only magnified his failures of leadership.
Over one year into the pandemic, the public health crisis has deepened. We have record numbers of daily infections, positivity rates and deaths. The public health system is at breaking point. Our economy is just as bad. Too many patients are dying without getting access to critical care. Millions have lost their jobs and livelihoods due to the lockdowns and restrictions — the longest and harshest in the world yet glaringly ineffective.
All these, Duterte shrugs off: “Maliit na bagay ito. Wala tayong magawa.” (“This is a small thing. We can do nothing.”)
That is unforgivable given the amount of resources he was allowed to dispense for this crisis. As much as the Duterte regime has relied on force to combat the pandemic, it rejects sound scientific advice for a comprehensive health crisis program.
The President’s “czars,” economic advisers, and generals leading the COVID-19 Inter Agency Task Force have deliberately and recklessly endangered our people with their failure to deliver a credible, competent, compassionate and science-based response to the pandemic.
Duterte’s subservience to China threatens to tie our vaccination program to China’s expansionist agenda in the West Philippine Sea. China’s stationing of over 200 maritime militia vessels at Julian Felipe Reef is an affront to our sovereignty that should not be erased by vaccine donations or notions of friendship.
The COVID-19 pandemic is getting worse. We are suffering our worst economic crisis in decades. And the aggressive encroachment of China on Philippine territory and maritime rights is unfolding as we speak.
But where is the President? There is no leadership ensuring our protection and safety, both from the virus, the economic crunch and attacks on our sovereignty. Instead, the President remains obsessed with the drug war, attacking his critics and ordering the deaths of those he considers his enemies.
We deserve and demand better. Our country is on the brink of disaster. At the time the nation needs him most, Duterte is a total failure as a leader. He must step down.
We need a competent leadership that can finally ramp up free mass testing, expand contact tracing, and build the isolation and treatment facilities we so badly need towards strengthening the entire health care system.
We need leadership that will harness the necessary resources for a just, equitable and robust social amelioration and economic stimulus program.
We need a courageous leader willing to defend, in word and in deed, our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea towards a truly independent foreign policy.
We do not need a leader who fuels fear or division. We need one who can unite all Filipinos of various beliefs in this one big fight to save the nation.
Duterte is not this leader. He has done too much damage to our people. He will never change. He must resign.
[See the growing list of signatories here.]