Akbayan supports the government, especially the Department of Health, in its efforts to heed our call for mass testing through the approval of the locally developed antigen-based testing kits and the expansion of testing facilities outside of the National Capital Region. These measures will provide a better approximation of the magnitude of the pandemic and allow the various stakeholders to make evidence-informed decisions with due consideration to the context.

The efforts to ramp up the conversion of public spaces into quarantine facilities is in line with our proposed strategy of identify, isolate, and treat. Considering the trend of new cases being reported daily, the capacity of these facilities will soon be maxed out. We need the local government units (LGU) to augment these quarantine facilities by setting up local community-based isolation units (CBIU) with technical support coming from the DOH. Equitable distribution of cases across all the levels of service delivery network must be observed to ensure that those who have more severe presentations of the illness receive appropriate specialized care and those who have less severe presentations are effectively managed at the primary care level.

Akbayan Party called on the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to fast track the roll out of the emergency subsidies before the holy week break.

"For millions of Filipino families, their fasting became involuntary with limited food packs and cash aid at the start of the lockdown," Akbayan Chairperson emeritus Joel Rocamora said. "We need not extend their Calvary throughout the holy week. The DSWD and the LGUs should work fast to distribute the cash aid and food packs before the break on Holy Thursday."

"There are reports that the cash aid is not reaching the poor because of a quota system where each city is given a limited amount based on census data from 5 years ago," the former National Anti-Poverty chief said.

Just over a week, since President Duterte signed the Bayanihan to Heal as One (BAHO) Act, the emergency powers vested on him bared its fangs on the Filipino people.

Alongside the increase of cases of COVID-19, there seems to be an outbreak of violence and rights violations too. Last March 27, a teacher and her son were arrested in General Santos City for criticizing the mayor's inaction on food distribution. On April 1, the NBI filed a case against Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto for insisting on ferrying health workers with tricycles in the city. Later that evening, in reaction to public protest by residents of Sitio San Roque to clamor for food, Duterte ordered the military to "shoot them [any protesters] dead" in a nationwide address. In the morning of April 2, Atty. Chel Diokno released to the public that the NBI has filed subpoenas to individuals for critical opinions on social media.

Akbayan Party urged President Rodrigo Duterte to push for expanded testing through the Department of Health (DOH) as COVID-19 cases yesterday jumped to 343, bringing the total to 1418.

"This pandemic is only an invisible war because we are not doing mass testing," Akbayan leader Joel Rocamora said. "The drastic increase of COVID cases and casualties, including our doctors in the frontlines, prove what experts in the World Health Organization have been saying: we should test, test and test."

"The President should push for Secretary Duque to be more decisive in detecting more cases across the country to build people's trust. When people lose trust in our health systems, they most likely won't cooperate with protocols or will cling to misinformation about the virus. That's the least thing we want during this pandemic," Rocamora said.

"We expect that in the President's report to Congress later, as mandated in the BAHO  Act, he'll present a clear, responsive plan to test thousands more per day and provide full compensation to our health workers in COVID-19 centers. The government should also explain their assessment on the community quarantine and its effects on the spread of the virus," Rocamora said. "The government has billions to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, now it just needs the political will to get things moving."

Akbayan Party leader Etta Rosales lamented cases of human rights violations during the 30-day Luzon lockdown as cases of COVID-19 are rising in the country.

"When we put people in dog cages or beat them with sticks when they are caught outside, whose side are we really on? Our people or the virus?" the former human rights chief said.

Her statement came after a viral video made rounds online of a policeman in Quiapo hitting a resident with a stick, despite showing a quarantine pass.

"We should not lose sight of why we ask our people to stay at home: it's to keep them safe and healthy. If we violently punish curfew violators, we only compete with the virus in harming people," Rosales said.

"If we are to address the issue of people leaving their homes during the lockdown, we need to address the issue of lack of food and livelihood. If they don't have food to put on the table, people will risk the curfew and leave their homes. Our workers need compassion from authorities in these troubling times," Rosales said.