Beginning with just 500 signatories from medical frontliners, academicians, media practitioners, students, lawyers, and businessmen, an online petition calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to resign grew by leaps and bounds in a matter of days until their numbers had reached tens of thousands.
The Duterte Resign movement initiated by Change.org late last week drew more than 20,000 signatories in its first 24 hours. By the second day, the number had ballooned to more than 40,000. The petition’s original target was to gather 25,000 signatures.
The petition blamed the President for bringing the country to the brink of disaster with his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“At the time the nation needs him most, Duterte is a total failure as a leader,” the petition said, adding that “he must step down.”
While the mishandling of the pandemic was the main reason for their call for the President to resign, Change.org also cited other reasons, specifically the Duterte administration’s “incompetence, brutality, corruption, and kowtowing to foreign powers” in the last five years.
The pandemic, they said, “only magnified his failures of leadership.”
Malacañang was not expected to react to the petition, much less accept that a growing number of the citizenry have given up on the Duterte administration. Neither did the petition leave the door open for Duterte to remain as president until his term ends next year.
Change.org said what the Philippines needs is competent leadership to implement broad-scale testing for COVID-19, expand contract testing to identify all who had potentially been exposed to the virus, and boost the healthcare system by setting up more isolation and treatment facilities.
Duterte, the petition said, remained obsessed with his drug war, attacking his critics, and ordering the death of those he considers his enemies.
What he should instead be doing is to use government resources to address the prolonged pandemic and defend the Philippines’ territorial integrity, according to Change.org.
“We do not need a leader who fuels fear or division,” the petition said, “We need one who can unite all Filipinos of various beliefs in this one big fight to save the nation.”
Change.org concluded: “Duterte is not this leader. He has done too much damage to our people. He will never change. He must resign.”
Beyond the Duterte administration’s failed coronavirus response, the petitioners also accused the President of failing to assert the country’s sovereignty amid the increased aggression of China in the West Philippine Sea.
Last month, some 240 Chinese ships were spotted in the Julian Felipe Reef area. While China claimed they were fishing vessels, there were indications that some of them were military in nature.
China claimed the ships were only looking for safe harbor due to rough seas caused by inclement weather and would soon leave the area.
Long after the weather cleared, the ships were still in the area, pushing Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana to demand their immediate exit.
Lorenzana’s stand was supported by Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro Locsin, who filed diplomatic protest after diplomatic protest, even going to the extent of calling on China’s ambassador to the Philippines to explain the continued presence of the Chinese ships in Philippine waters.
It was only after the arrival of US warships that the Chinese vessels finally left the area this week.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque told media that the President would try to ease the tensions between Beijing and Manila “in private.”
This merely added fuel to the fire, with Change.org stating that “Duterte’s subservience to China threatens to tie our vaccination program to China’s expansionist agenda in the West Philippine Sea.”
As of press time, the online petition was still receiving signatures and messages of support from Filipino netizens.