President Rodrigo Duterte snapped at medical professionals on Sunday night for trying to “demean” his government, and threatened that he would quash any signs of revolt from their ranks.
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Duterte was dismayed over the demands of health workers and for making him the last person to know about their grievances on the rising cases of coronavirus disease 2019, despite efforts being done by the government to contain COVID-19, according to Palace spokesperson Harry Roque.
Roque also defended Duterte’s remarks daring government critics and health frontliners to “declare a revolution,” explaining that the context was linked to the song “Do You Hear the People Sing?", a revolutionary song from the "Les Miserables" movie translated to Filipino and sung by government critics, which made the rounds online.
“You really don't know me. You want to revolution? Then say it. Go ahead, try it. We'll ruin everything. We'll kill all those who are infected with COVID," Duterte said Sunday evening.
"Is that what you want? We can always end our existence in this manner," the President dared.
“Next time, you can ask for an audience. Pero 'wag ho kayong magsigaw-sigaw, rebolusyon, rebolusyon (But don't cry 'Revolution! Revolution!')" Duterte said.
Roque said Duterte was the “last to know” about the health workers petition, which they posted online, hours before their letter reached him.
Explaining Duterte’s revolution remark, Roque said videos of administration critics singing the Filipino version of the memorable “Les Miserables” tune “Do You Hear the People Sing” were shared online after Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Franklin Drilon criticized the government’s pandemic action.
“The events came one after the other that it’s seemingly impossible that they are not related. That’s free speech but we cannot remove the context of what happened,” Roque said in Filipino.
He also denied that the President was sensitive to criticism.
Roque said the letter of the medical groups reached the President on Saturday, hours after the representatives of healthcare workers held an online press conference to air their plea.
“While the President has already agreed to their demands, the President seemed pissed by the late information from the frontliners' demand. He was the last know the demand,” Roque said.
Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) president Dr. Mario Panaligan has denied that they were calling for a revolution. In fact, the group welcomed the President's decision to revert Metro Manila and four other areas to a Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ), they said in a statement on Monday
READ: Health workers: Only a plea for help, not a call to revolt
In their letter to the President on Saturday, the medical frontliners said the “timeout” they asked can be used to refine the COVID-19 response strategies, which include “hospital workforce efficiency, failure of case finding and isolation, failure of contact tracing and quarantine,” among others.
"After the distress call to prevent the collapse of the healthcare system due to the overwhelming surge of COVID-19 cases in the country, we are pleased to hear that the President listened to and acknowledged the plight of the whole medical community. We recognize that this is a complex decision and we appreciate his immediate response," said the PCP, a group of internal medicine doctors.
“We did not mention anything about revolution, we want to make it clear that we are not going to make a war with the government,” PCP vice president Dr. Ma. Encarnita Blanco-Limpin stressed. “All we want is solidarity, unity, in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. Not revolution.”
Medical frontliners earlier asked for Metro Manila to return to an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the country’s strictest form of lockdown, for two weeks to give them time to rest and "recalibrate strategies" against COVID-19.
Instead of reverting to the ECQ, Health Secretary Francisco Duque suggested returning to the MECQ on Sunday during a late-night meeting with the President, a proposal approved by Duterte.
The president said reverting back to the ECQ was not possible given that the government “cannot give any more food and money to people.”
Duterte said in the Cabinet meeting that the workers should have written the government a letter instead of airing out their complaints in public. He also accused them of raising the “spectacle of your agony.”
“You treat it as if you are about ready to stop work. Do not do that to our poor countrymen. Who will we turn to? I am sure that is not in your heart. I am sure that in your despair, I would like to tell you that your government leaves no workers behind. We are doing everything possible to alleviate the situation, to assist our healthcare workers,” Duterte said.
“Next time, don’t come to me with [plans of] a revolution. My God, that is more dangerous than COVID. If you plan on staging a revolution, you will give me the free ticket to stage a counterrevolution. How I wish you would do it...I dare you to do it,” the President added.
He also defended his cabinet, composed of mostly former generals, from critics who said they lacked concrete plans against the pandemic.
“We are not incompetent because we are not doctors...You should do the soul-searching. You should be helping, but you are not doing anything but complain...What can I do? I have always been praying to god for a vaccine,” the President said.
“Do not try to demean [the] government. You are not actually criticizing. You demean my government, your own government,” Duterte added.
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