Politics overshadow unified disaster response in the Philippines

By April 7, 2020

Philippines (MNN) — “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.

2016 photo of President Rodrigo Duterte.
(Photo courtesy of Wkimedia Commons)

“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.”

Filipino pastors
(Photo courtesy of Asian Access)

In order to obey shelter in place orders, pastors are finding ways to encourage their congregations from afar. Read an online devotional from Moldez here. Plus, “the Philippian Council of Evangelical Churches is updating us day-to-day and uniting us, and [describing] how we can labor together to respond in this challenging time,” Moldez says.

Together, believers are meeting the needs of their communities and congregations.

“Pastors…who have regular support in the churches in the cities and towns [are] okay. But those who only receive a love gift when they have the church service are definitely affected,” Moldez explains.

Church leaders and their community partners are pooling resources and searching for ways to help pastors with great financial need in remote and poor districts. More about Asian Access’ coronavirus response here.

How to help

Hundreds of new COVID-19 infections were reported yesterday; pray for the safety of health workers responding to this crisis. As described here, doctors comprise more than one in ten coronavirus victims in the Philippines.

Additionally, “let’s pray that this will open more opportunities for the Gospel,” Moldez requests. “We are a ‘Christian’ nation. But, like any other part of the world, when things are [going well], we search for material things.”

Pray believers in the Philippines, and around the world, will realize their material possessions amount to nothing.

“What is important now is our connection with God… that gives us inner strength to continue.”

Read our full coverage to see how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting believers around the world. Find ways to pray into the crisis here using a resource from our sister ministry, Prayercast.



Header image is a representative stock photo courtesy of Manuel via Unsplash.

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