Tens of thousands of Filipinos have signed an online petition demanding Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte resign to “save the nation” from his government’s pandemic response as coronavirus cases in the country near one million.
Critics blame mounting caseloads and deaths, slow vaccinations, and economic fallout on Duterte, who has been slammed for frequent unexplained disappearances. In a recent incident, Duterte went missing for two weeks as rumors swirled over his health.
“We deserve and demand better. Our country is on the brink of disaster. At the time the nation needs him most, Duterte is a total failure as a leader. He must step down,” the petition on Change.org read.
As of Monday afternoon it had nearly 60,000 signatures, well above the 500 from the medical, law, media, and religious communities last week.
John Nery, a political observer and columnist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, said it was important for people to make their voices heard through the petition even if the chances of Duterte stepping down are slim.
“In terms of what is called narrative capacity, yes, it is becoming clearer that the campaign is in fact already achieving something important: An outraged, deeply frustrated public is telling the true story of the pandemic,” he told VICE World News.
“We are all in trouble because Duterte failed. Duterte is a failure.”
The petition also mentioned “kowtowing to foreign powers,” a reference to Duterte’s alleged unwillingness to confront Beijing over territorial disputes in the South China Sea because of how it might affect vaccine supply.
The Philippines now has the highest number of coronavirus cases among countries in the Western Pacific region, according to data from the World Health Organization. The total number of deaths is approaching 16,000.
“He has done too much damage to our people,” the petition said, referring to Duterte. “He will never change. He must resign.”
The presidential palace has defended Duterte after he was criticized for his absence as cases surged. It said that was his “style” and that Filipinos should “leave him be.” It did not respond to further request for comment from VICE World News.
The president remains popular in the Philippines, according to opinion polls.
It is unclear who started the petition, but it was posted by an account named Filipinos for Duterte’s Resignation.
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