‘It’s okay when we do it,’ Philippines edition

Source: nykdaily.com

Five years ago, I wrote about how lies can teach you more than the truth. So it is with this article from Yahoo News:

Rodrigo Duterte Is Using One of the World’s Longest COVID-19 Lockdowns to Strengthen His Grip on the Philippines

Yep, that nasty Duterte is using his lockdown to increase his own power while Western elites would never dream of doing that.

The whole article is an interesting mix of truth and facts used in a misleading or hypocritical way.

There are confusing variations in rules from locality to locality, however. The armed police that man checkpoints have also, at times, been encouraged by President Rodrigo Duterte to shoot lockdown violators dead.

There is indeed confusion as to what you can and can’t do. In addition, enforcement varies widely. In the one-horse town I live in, you only need to wear a mask in the market. This is not official policy, it is just what the police can be bothered with. Apparently things are much stricter in Manila.

As for shooting violators, Duterte always says whacky things like that and no one takes him seriously. Like time he announced he used to be gay and that his wife cured him, or the time he said that soldiers retaking Marawi would only be allowed to rape one woman each. The head of the police immediately clarified that they would not be shooting anyone, and they didn’t. This is old news and the author knows better.

Human rights, already threatened by Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, appear to have worsened further, say experts. Under the cover of coronavirus, says rights lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, “There is a clear effort from some quarters in the government to shrink the democratic space and free discussion that is essential to a democracy.”

Maybe. Is that true anywhere else? Say, election rules being modified illegally in a way that benefits one party? Or the imposition of arbitrary rules about what news can be shared online?

In the meantime, the livelihoods and personal lives of many ordinary Filipinos are deteriorating. “I have to endure the pain of living far from my family,” Gumban says. “At some point, you’ll cry it out in one corner, and say ‘Please, Lord, enough already.’”

This is certainly true, in the Philippines and everywhere else with strict, extended lockdowns.

Undoubtedly, lockdowns have prevented Philippine hospitals from being overwhelmed. 

Doubt. The big spike came soon after the declaration of quarantine. There’s no correlation I can see between infection rates and social distancing policies. If you can’t see something clearly in a graph and have to carefully tease it out of the data, there’s probably nothing there.

William Hartung, the director of the arms and security program at the Washington D.C.-based Center for International Policy, says the approach is eerily similar to Duterte’s much criticized war on drugs, with its emphasis on armed enforcement and punitive measures. “The regime has more tools now to crack down on people than when it started,” he tells TIME. “Now, they’ve got a crisis that allows them to tighten its grip on power.”

Also true everywhere else.

The climate of fear is undeniable. TV operators in the Philippines used to reserve late-night slots for crime tales and horror shows. These days, they allocate the time to equally grim fare: weekly COVID-19 “updates” from Duterte, shown at the head of a table of military top brass.

Approximately true everywhere else. You should have seen the daily updates from the Victorian premier. It almost had spooky music in the background.

On the streets, emboldened local authorities appear to have free rein. There have been reports from rights groups of children stuffed inside coffins for violating curfew and other regulations. Adults have been beaten up or thrown into jail, some in dog cages.

If this happened at all, these were rare cases in a nation of 100 million. The police are currently being no bigger arseholes than usual, to the best of my knowledge. Perhaps others will report a different experience.

Philippine social media has also become fraught. A new law has criminalized the spreading of “false information” with up to two months in prison and a fine of one million pesos ($19,600)—a fortune to ordinary Filipinos—and at least 17 people have been subpoenaed by the National Bureau of Investigation for expressing discontent online.

That would never happen in our countries.

Professor Atienza explains that there has been hardly any effort to educate people about coronavirus. The priority, she says “is more on people having to obey lockdown procedures instead of [ensuring] that people will be healthy or health will be protected. People should be educated why they need to stay at home and why certain facilities have to close down.”

This is the truest paragraph in the story but instead of being fed lockdown propaganda, Filipinos should be taught basic infection control and the importance of not spitting, etc. There has been no change in unhygienic behaviour over the past year and none has been encouraged by authorities.

For now, Filipinos continue to endure the political uncertainty, harsh restrictions and unprecedented social isolation that comes from their government’s draconian response to COVID-19.

Yes. Lucky it’s just Filipinos.

The broad point of the article is correct: lockdowns in the Philippines have been a disaster, have not controlled Covid’s spread and have exacerbated abuses of power. However, (a) it’s not that much worse than in the West and (b) we are looking at our own future as we rapidly become less WEIRD. Within a decade or two, our present soft tyranny may be replaced by this harder, Third-World style tyranny.

For the record, Duterte remains extremely popular because all the opposition leaders so glowingly referred to in this story are immensely wealthy oligarchs from old Spanish or Chinese families who’ve been in power since Marcos, achieved nothing for their country and care not a jot about ordinary Filipinos.

You might even call them a ‘hostile elite’. Fancy having one of those.

Further reading:

An Easter lockdown in Angeles City that includes a ban on the sale of alcohol. That’s easier than educating people why they should not share the same cup of Tanduay, I guess.

Why Covid control policies have different outcomes in different nations.

The terrible idea to shut the Philippines’ schools for a year (maybe two).

Also available on many other platforms.


  1. luisman · 21 Days Ago

    Reblogged this on Nicht-Linke Blogs.


  2. luisman · 21 Days Ago

    Except for the few countries which didn’t lock down, it’s not worse here than anywhere else. Police is actually not cruising around trying to catch lockdown violators. The center of infection and chaos is naturally in the greater Manila area. It’s been called hell by a famous author and when you go there, you know why.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Richard III · 21 Days Ago



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