COVID-19 Watch News

Youth groups slam gov’t on handling pandemic, forward agenda that amplifies public’s demands

By Alvin James Magno

Several youth groups criticize the actions made by the Duterte administration on the implemented policies regarding the Luzon lockdown and the misappropriation of the P 27.1 B emergency fund fighting the pandemic, thus creating two sets of agenda that will address the current problems faced by the country.

According to the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) President Daryl Angelo Baybayado, the guild acknowledges the allocation of the budget for the affected sectors; however, the fund given to the health care sector is not enough on solving the soaring number of COVID-19 patients.

“If the government is sincere in serving the needs of the Filipino people, Duterte must prioritize the funding for the health sector and coronavirus test kits to immediately combat the disease,” he said.

To give a brief background, the Duterte Administration’s economic team rolls out the P 27.1 billion budget on Monday to target the severities inflicted by the pandemic in the country. Instead of it being commended, it was lambasted by the public because half of it or P14 billion was given to the tourism sector. Meanwhile, the health sector was allocated with only P3.1 billion to purchase test kits.

Moreover, the guild’s president added that despite of the administration’s allotment of budget for workers, especially the farmers who are distressed by the rice liberalization law, it will not properly support their family’s day-to-day needs. Baybayado also stated that as millions of them are affected, the P2 billion financial assistance for displaced workers, P1.2 social security benefits, and P2.8 billion loan for farmers will not be sufficient.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) condemns the actions made by the government to the repressive policies set down to the public.

“The incompetence of national public officials in responding to health crises also worsens the situation. Instead of focusing their attention and resources to solve the socio-economic reasons that underpin the crisis, they are instead prioritizing draconian measures of imposing restrictive lockdown measures,” NUSP said.

The call for public health demands

With the problems at hand, CEGP, alongside other youth groups and mass organizations, made a 7-point public health demands to address the rising number of individuals contracted COVID-19.

“The 7-point public health demands are urgent and imperative measures from the worsening disease given the Duterte regime’s blatant negligence. The lack of support and how unprepared our public officials in our country reveals something deeply rotten about our healthcare system,” CEGP’s Baybayado said.

The said public health demands mostly compromise health measures and the prioritization of the welfare of the Filipinos. The demands are to pass immediate medical solutions instead of military actions; support local scientists and frontline health workers and professionals; ensure the assistance to the affected workers; rechannel the allocated budget of the Office of the President, National Task Force, and Oplan Tokhang to basic social services; stop the increase in prices amid the crisis; ensure the regulation of food, medicine, and other basic products; and, ensure the protection of human rights and civil liberties of all sectors.

Furthermore, the said guild called out the current administration to prioritize the interest of millions of Filipinos affected by the crisis.

“In these trying times, the welfare of the Filipino people should be the utmost priority of the administration… He must listen to his constituents,” Baybayado said.

Additionally, CEGP tasked all student publications to stand with its pro-people agenda and report the current conditions happening not only in the country, but also in the community.

The students’ demands

On the other hand, NUSP, in partnership with Kabataan Partylist (KPL), crafted a 5-point student demands to amplify the concerns of the students and the calls of its student councils to free and accessible education for all during the crisis.

“The struggle for the 5-point Student Demands — made possible through the efforts of student leaders all over the country — continues the historic role of student councils in achieving a free and inclusive society for the youth,” NUSP Deputy Secretary General Joshua Marcial said.

The said demands of the union are inclusive educational alternative, which calls for the suspension of online classes and to resume classes if the government successfully mitigated the spreading of virus; refund unused fees and stop impending tuition and other school fees increase; sustain teaching and non-teaching staff salaries; stop rail-roading anti-student repressive policies; and, preserve student representation through genuine student councils.

The organization also commends and continues the support of the work of medical front liners, further demanding the government to stop the militarization of communities, and transfer billions of confidential funds for mass testing, disinfection, and other medical-related solutions to combat the pandemic.

“The solution should not just favor the convenience of the few but should serve also the marginalized individuals,” NUSP stated. [P]

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