Politics and the Disobedient Few Overshadow Unified Disaster Response in the Philippines

A makeshift barricade blocks a street from outsiders to protect a neighbourhood from the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manila, Philippines, March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa

Desperate times call for desperate measures”: it’s a phrase used to describe extreme action taken under dire circumstances. Some may use this to describe the president of the Philippines’ statement last week regarding lockdown violaters. But, as Herman Moldez of Asian Access explains, things aren’t always what they seem.

As described here, a political group stirred up protestors in Metro Manila last week, and – after negotiating for an hour – police arrested dozens of people who refused to go home. “It is not really right at this point of time to gather these people and protest because that will only aggravate the situation,” Moldez says, referring to the pandemic and containment measures.

“That’s what triggered the president in his comment… ‘if they resist and the police will be in danger, just shoot them’.”

CBS News ran this headline following the incident, implying President Rodrigo Duterte ordered police to kill anyone who defied the coronavirus lockdown. However, “the military and the police already know how to take statements like this that [are] quite exaggerated,” Moldez says.

“They said ‘no, we will not abuse our power; we will do the best that we can to maintain order’.”

But maintaining order isn’t always easy in the Philippines’ remote villages. Over the weekend, a drunk 63-year old man threatened village police with a scythe when they asked him to wear a face mask. An officer trying to pacify the man shot and killed him.

Filipino disaster response

Life is calmer in the rest of the archipelago, striking a stark contrast to Manila’s highly-politicized atmosphere. “People are responding [to the crisis],” Moldez says.

“The public sector, the private sector, and civil society are working together to attend to the needs of those who are really marginalized and [who] don’t have day-to-day income at this point in time.”

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SOURCE: Mission Network News, Katey Hearth


  • Pray for the safety of health workers responding to the coronavirus crisis in the Philippines.
  • Pray for Gospel opportunities, and pray believers will have eyes to see them.
  • Pray believers in the Philippines, and around the world, will realize their material possessions amount to nothing. Ask the Lord to help believers realize His purpose for them during this time.