COVID-19 in The Philippines: The Case Against A Dangerously Inadequate Response

by Lauryn Lin
Contributing Writer

Police and armed soldiers now walk the streets of Manila as they try to keep people inside their homes. “Shoot them dead,” ordered Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in a national address after a protest in Quezon City. The protest occurred at the beginning of April after people had not received relief supplies and food starting March 15 when the COVID-19 lockdown went into motion. Duterte initially enacted a form of martial law back when he first declared the administration’s War on Drugs. Threatening to further this in a time of crisis is reminiscent of his extrajudicial killings that occurred before the pandemic. Duterte’s zero tolerance policy for illegal substances already has many frightened for their lives. The circumstances of COVID-19 are giving Duterte room to broaden his regime of cruelty. 

Duterte was granted emergency powers on March 25 with the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, a measure to allocate funds and direct hospitals to prioritize efforts that target the pandemic. Critics argue against this because of the extreme measures he took when he waged his drug war. Duterte’s orders allow security forces to shoot to kill anyone they feel is a threat. In a personal statement addressing the president’s overstepping of authority, University of the Philippines Law professor Jay Batongbacal said, “No to emergency powers. The existing powers are already being abused.” Duterte’s past points ontaking advantage of these powers  are widely regarded as a means of keeping the people in a state of fear. So far he has only asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to work around the clock, never closing under the new twenty-four hour operation. These agencies work to find a vaccine and assess effective medicine for the virus. 

Even though the Bayanihan Act’s main purpose is for Duterte to redistribute funding for efforts against the virus, it contains provisions that would punish those who are spreading fake news about the virus. Some say that it could be used to target people opposing Duterte’s regime. “Under such emergency, local government officials risk being booted out from their post for merely adjusting their COVID-19 response to the specific needs of their jurisdiction,” says Rep. Arlene Brosas. As local governments try to figure out the best way to combat the virus, this provision will limit the possibility of exploring every option. 

There is one measure in the act however, that allows for Congress to examine Duterte’s actions and regulations in regards to his new emergency powers. Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros is keeping an eye on how this will be carried out, saying that “The Senate must exercise its oversight functions,” she affirms. “I’ll be very active that Bayanihan Law is exercised without abuse and funds will reach those who need it most.” In addition to this clause in the act, Duterte must also send weekly reports to Congress about how effectively he has utilized these powers. 

On May 5, the leading broadcast network ABS-CBN was forced to shut down by orders from the National Telecommunications Commision. Duterte has been targeting the network since his election in 2016 when they refused to run his presidential campaign ads. Since then, they have closely followed the cruelty of the drug war and more recently, have been communicating important updates regarding the current public health crisis. A statement from the network reads, “Millions of Filipinos will lose their source of news and entertainment when ABS-CBN is ordered to go off-air on TV and radio tonight (5 May 2020) when people need crucial and timely information as the nation deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.” The last time ABS-CBN was forced off the air was in September of 1972 during a time of martial law when President Ferdinand Marcos chose not to renew the network’s license. A controversial leader, Marcos was known for his brutality and corruption, quite similar to Duterte. A repeat of the past seems to be becoming a threat to the freedom of press and has even caught the attention of human rights activists

The United Nations has reported that such a “highly militarised response” from the Philippines with coronavirus restrictions is cause for concern. They also named China, Sri Lanka, and El Salvador as countries who instrumentalized the pandemic as a means to hide their human rights violations. Peggy Hicks, the Director of Thematic Engagement at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned that any restrictions enacted in these states as a response to the pandemic, must be absolutely necessary and of a temporary placement. The United Nation’s unease about how many countries are dealing with the pandemic is indicative not only of the change that needs to occur in the Philippines, but every country scapegoating the health crisis as a means to extend austerely draconian policies across the globe.

China’s Paradox: Economic Stimulation vs. Climate Catastrophe Aversion

Environmental inspectors in northern China have found that seventy percent of the businesses they examined failed to meet environmental standards for controlling air pollution. (Photo by Ella Ivanescu)

by Rachel Chiang
Staff Writer

This is a familiar story: China is to blame for climate change, with twenty-seven percent of global greenhouse gases emanating from within its borders. Operating under the desire to generate capital, the “authoritarian” Chinese state condones crippling levels of pollution, to the point at which face masks are daily necessities embraced by residents of Beijing. Any efforts to be environmentally conscious in the United States are futile since China will continue the reckless expansion of its carbon footprint.

Continue reading “China’s Paradox: Economic Stimulation vs. Climate Catastrophe Aversion”



By Julia Aurell
Staff Writer

Two weeks ago, the People’s Republic of China, led by Xi Jinping, decided to revoke its highly debated one-child policy. The policy, which was introduced over 35 years ago, has been a constant point of controversy at home as well as abroad, as China stands as one of the few countries in the world to insist that it can manage population growth as it sees fit. Initially designed to ensure that the emerging population did not gobble up economic growth, the source of the Communist Party’s legitimacy, the policy has led to worrying demographics. By 2050, 35% of the 1.35 billion population is predicted to be over the age of 60. Meanwhile the working-age population fell by 3.71% in 2014, a trend which is predicted to continue over the next decade. With such statistics, one must pose the question; will Xi and his government be the victim to the Communist party’s own policies?

Introduced in September 1980, the program is estimated to have prevented the birth of nearly 400 million children. Many women have reported dealing with the personal traumas of losing these children. Nevertheless, social consequences never motivated any reassessment of the policy. Rather, the worries of an aging population and declining economic growth have been the primary cause of concern for the Communist Party. Yi Fuixan, an outspoken critic and professor in Human Demographics, has frequently voiced his opinions of the economic downfall associated with declining demographics, noting that if the trend is not reversed “the future for China’s economy will look grim.” For the People’s Republic of China, the continuous economic growth has been a major source of power. An instantaneous decline in economic growth could threaten the regime and spark a demand for a change in ideology. Because of these economic pressures China may have revoked its policy to maintain political balance and control over its population.

However, this is not the first time the Communist Party has taken steps to relax the brutal reinforcement of the policy. In 2013, Beijing introduced a policy that permitted parents who had only one child to apply for consideration to have a second child. This change was predicted to boost China’s population by 2 million annually. However, by September of this year only 1.76 million people had applied for this privilege, implying only an increase of 1 million newborns, half of the Communist Party’s predictions. The selective two-child policy proved a failure, and thus the only sensible route was scrapping the policy completely and allowing all women to have two children. The Chinese government has proclaimed an annual target of 20 million births per year; an 8 million increase to the amount of births recorded in 2013. Will the predictions be correct this time around, or has the ship sailed for higher Chinese population growth?

Stuart Gietel-Basten, associate professor of social policy at the University of Oxford says that “the reforms will be too little too late.” Although the Communist party seems to have bowed to the reality of the situation, without acknowledging their immediate failure, couples will still face a two-child policy; a system enforced through permits and heavy fines.

Nevertheless, the two-child policy will not solve the deeper issues which are coming to underpin Chinese society. With an incredible population source available to employers, parents are forced to spend both time and money on their child in order to secure success. In 2011, it was estimated that the average disposable income in Shanghai was 32,000 Yuan. However, schooling for one child equated to nearly 31,838 Yuan, leading 35% of parents to parents to deem that raising a child is a burden. Not only must parents take care of children, the Chinese society and tradition states that a good child must take care of their parents. Further, the demographics of women in China have changed. According to the Chinese government, nearly 90 million women are eligible for the 2nd child policy. Conversely, 60% of these women are over 35. Not only have families and careers often been created at this point, females may not wish to undergo the health risks associate for both baby and mom at such an age.

With these burdens, many couples may not be willing to have more children, even if they will be encouraged to do so. Though there may be steps for the Chinese government to promote growth, such as offering cash incentives to mothers to encourage large families, decades of government propaganda may have convinced them that one child really is the best and any deviation from such is unacceptable. The social stigma around two-children, coupled with increasing financial and social burdens will have continuous impact on China’s demographics for years to come. However, this offers a problematic picture. Will the falling demographics resulting from a policy implemented to preserve economic growth and power prove to be the Achilles heel of the Chinese Communist Party?

Photo by kattebelletje