“Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” Isaiah 58:10
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) is deeply concerned about the two-week extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon.
“We are worried that greater vulnerabilities will surface that will put the poor majority into further suffering – hunger, paranoia, and the socio-psychological effects of quarantine. Things that could have been prevented by a well-planned and timely response,” said leading members of NCCP.
“The provision of food was the most evident difficulty that was observable during the first three weeks of ECQ,” NCCP observed.
“While we laud the provision of DSWD’s Social Amelioration Fund for the poor and the support to the affected workers from DOLE’s COVID-19 Adjustment Measure Program,” NCCP continued, “misinformation, incoherence of data, and the lack of clear guidelines on the distribution have further delayed the already snail-paced and bureaucratic implementation of the emergency assistance”.
The NCCP statement was signed by Rev. Felipe B. Ehican, Jr., Chairperson; The Rt. Rev. Joel O. Porlares, Vice Chairperson; Dra. Gay B. Manondon, Vice Chairperson; Ms. Ma. Kay Catherine F. Almario, Vice Chairperson; and, Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza, General Secretary.
MEDICAL SOLUTION, NOT MILITARISTIC SOLUTION
“We are also disturbed over the government’s militaristic approach and its fixation on arrests and imprisonment in a time of a public health crisis,” NCCP declared.
The group continued: “More than twenty thousand have been arrested by the police and military from March 17 to April 5, even more than the number of COVID tests conducted to date.”
“Arresting and putting them in crammed spaces defeats the purpose of social distancing. The remarks “Shoot them dead” and “No mercy” coming from the current administration has turned this crisis into a spectacle of persecution of the poor.”
NCCP cautioned “The United Nations pointed out that “a state of emergency, or any other security measures, should be guided by human rights principles and should not, in any circumstances, be an excuse to quash dissent.”
RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS
“We also say again our plea to the government to release, on humanitarian grounds, the sick, elderly, and the prisoners of conscience who have been wrongfully incarcerated because of their political beliefs, especially the pregnant women and nursing mothers.”
The 394% congestion rate in detention facilities poses grave, potential and unmanageable consequences should a single detainee be infected.
“It is our hope that the government will heed the call of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to urgently address the catastrophic risk,” NCCP said.
FOOD FOR ALL UNDER LOCKDOWN
In the light of the extended ECQ, the NCCP reiterated its call for a more prompt, efficient, and relevant implementation of service delivery – that is transparent and free from politicking – to ensure the well-being of the people.
“It is imperative that aside from the containment of the spread of COVID-19, which is also contingent on effective mass testing, the vulnerable people are provided with what they need in order for them to stay at home in these critical times.”
NCCP continued: “The government must expedite the process of the distribution of additional food and cash assistance as the situation of millions of vulnerable families might worsen under the extended lockdown.”
“Moreover, the government must have a more comprehensive and strategic plan that will address the public health concern and socio-economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.”