Duterte’s “expanded targeted mass testing” is bound to fail

The Duterte administration’s indifference towards mass testing will render futile all the sacrifices and effort of the Filipino people to survive through and defeat COVID-19. Without achieving actual quick and thorough testing capacity and strengthening public health response and accessibility, the country will be continuously on the brink of another massive spread of COVID-19.

He is hiding his administration’s compounded stupidity and incompetency by drowning the Filipino people into a myriad of words and technicalities woven by questionable data and obvious misreporting. The regime is trying to mask it’s lack of mass testing efforts with its “expanded targeted mass testing” rhetoric citing the country’s incapacity. This is in the same week where the state had confirmed its intent to purchase an extravagant P2.4 billion artillery system with Israeli company Elibit Systems using public funds, instead of focusing all efforts to fight the pandemic.

Duterte’s foolhardy overconfidence is once again jeopardizing the well-being of the Filipino masses, as the government starts a hasty reopening of the economy while idiotically and deviously denying the importance of mass testing as a solution to COVID-19 — both economically and in terms of public health.

Harry Roque, Duterte’s principal puppet in Malacang, on 18 May finally admitted that the government still does not have any plan to create and launch a comprehensive mass testing program for the country and leaves the matter “up to the private sector.” This is despite mass testing being recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and proven by other countries to work effectively in identifying and isolating the virus — thus, successfully controlling its spread.

In other Asian countries like Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea, it was swift mass testing that led to early containment of the virus. On 30 April, Vietnam reported to have “contained the virus after aggressive mass testing.” As of 19 May, the country has recorded 81% recovery. South Korea, even being one of the first Asian countries to have a massive outbreak, was able to curb the infection without a lockdown and now has 90% recovery, thanks to its “diagnostic capacity” and measures in “case isolation” — 20,000 tests per day as early as February. Meanwhile, Taiwan and Hong Kong have recorded recovery rates of 91% and 97% respectively, despite being close to China — source of the pandemic. The two countries also have some of the highest testing rates in the continent. All four countries have recorded fatalities of less than 1%.

This is all in glaring disparity with the Philippines’ 8,000 tests per day, 22% recovery rate, and a staggering 6.4% case mortality rate — 0.5% higher than the country with the most number of cases, the US.

Yet, the nation’s capital and other “high-risk” areas are being slowly eased out of its strict quarantine measures on account of the supposed need to “stimulate the economy.” Infrastructure programs are back on the table. Restaurants are open. Offices are operational. The Filipino working class is back on the streets; but, the danger remains.

The people are denouncing the state’s insistence on class openings. Teachers, students, and parents stand that no educational institution should resume classes as long as no mass testing has been done. Even celebrities and famous personalities are calling out the administration for the lack of a comprehensive medical program.

Meanwhile, the Philippine government is focusing its energy on media repression, purchasing attack helicopters for Php13 billion, cracking down on Duterte’s critics, and zealously pursuing campaigns for constitutional reform and federalism. It is sacrificing the lives and welfare of its people to pursue its own greedy agenda. Instead of promoting mass testing, improving the quality of public hospitals and health centers in the country, and creating more effective quarantine facilities, Duterte’s administration devotes its budget to projects and programs that will only serve to further deepen their pockets and strengthen their political influence.

Especially with a second wave of infections threatening the global community, it is pertinent for the administration to realize — or to accept — that mass testing remains to be the most efficient way of flattening the curve of infections and eventually returning the lives of the Filipinos back to normal. It even stands as the primary protector of public officials culpable of violating even the regime’s fascist rule. The state’s terrorist task force, the NTF-ELCAC, helmed by Duterte’s worst goons, is now back on its track spreading malicious propaganda, making-up same old stories, and filing trumped-up charges against democratic forces.

But, as each day passes with the Duterte administration doing nothing to better the situation of the Filipinos, the voices of the critics will only get louder and the people’s resolve will only grow stronger.

The power remains with the masses — the hungry, the sick, the desperate. Mass testing is the solution Duterte refuses to accept. The broad unity of the Filipinos struggling are compelled by the situation to demand more; to demand the action that they deserve. And Duterte deserves nothing less than a slap back to reality. He needs to soon realize that the people, in the face of a crisis, will only continue to learn more how to fight back and struggle. And the people will give him nothing less than what he deserves.

Read about the national democratic perspective on pressing issues — from the Kabataang Makabayan National Spokesperson.