Karapatan: Duterte’s bid for emergency powers is a bid for potential abuse of power

With the worsening crisis brought by the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the government needs to pour in all of its resources to formulate the urgent and necessary public health and economic measures to mitigate the alarming transmission of the disease.

However, from the very start, the Duterte administration has been and continues to be lacking in a comprehensive, people-centered and rights-based plan to address the full breadth of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Filipino people, particularly its socio-economic dimensions. He has employed a dominantly militarist approach by imposing draconian measures that have put people's civil and political rights in peril.

What transpired in today's session in the Senate and the House of Representatives is a brazen display of the reality behind Duterte's bid for emergency powers — exposing the whole "tapang and malasakit" schtick as nothing more than a farce for Duterte to railroad his dictatorial ambitions.

Failing to present a comprehensive plan on the use of emergency powers against the COVID-19 pandemic, legitimate inquiries and demands on the projected numbers on health workers and medical personnel to be hired and deployed or the medical facilities to be built and equipment like test kits to be procured were cut off and shut out. The session only became a way for Duterte's lapdogs in Congress to grandstand and to express and reaffirm their fealty to the madman dictator.

With Duterte’s propensity to use and abuse his power as Chief Executive to violate people’s rights, this move, using the pandemic as an excuse, is one step closer to, if not already an embodiment of, martial rule. Duterte seems to be more than eager to use his emergency powers to give himself full, absolute and sole authority, and tighten his grip on power.

This bid for emergency powers is a bid for potential abuse of power. Moreover, after actively downplaying the outbreak for the past weeks by bragging that we are a "model country," the irony of this bid for emergency powers is that it is an admission of the administration's failure to combat this pandemic. The Filipino people are paying with their very lives for this inutile regime's utter incompetence.

We strongly reiterate that COVID-19 is a matter of public health emergency. What we urgently need is a comprehensive approach to mass testing, isolation and contact tracing. We do not need more militarist and fascist measures to address this public health concern. We say no to emergency powers!