100 Days of Fear

The Philippines marked its 100th day of community quarantine due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on June 22, 2020. It was a roller coaster ride for the nation that it is difficult to recall what had transpired day by day. As the nation began to count another possible 100 days, one can say that the Philippines came too far from the first day and even way too far from its last day of suffering.

By the first month of the community quarantine, some households received relief goods from the Local Government Units (LGUs), Non-Government organizations (NGOs), and volunteers. However, as months passed, relief packs became limited since the donors do not have much to sustain the help provided to them in the first few weeks of the crisis. Through RA 11469 or Bayanihan Heal as One Act, families who were categorized as “poor” received financial aid from the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) which are sustainable for some who invested to it. But some of those who were listed as qualified beneficiaries turned out to be unqualified. The guidelines for qualified beneficiaries were not specific and LGUs were discombobulated.

It was on the same first month where the police recorded around 130, 000 quarantine violators. Some of them are the homeless, the street vendors, and volunteers. These are the people in the margin who cannot just stay home because they have to find food and share food. Some are those who are unfazed by the threat of the virus and resisted to stay home. But they were not the only violators. Among them who made the headlines was Sen. Koko Pimentel who breached the quarantine protocol by accompanying his wife at Makati Medical Center, thus, exposing the hospital’s staff to the virus. Pimentel tested positive for COVID-19 after being one of the government officials who availed from the alleged “VIP testing.”

A month later, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Deputy Administrator Mocha Uson violated the quarantine protocol when she spearheaded a mass gathering, which is not allowed, with the overseas workers. National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Chief Debold Sinas also attended a mass gathering of his birthday party a few weeks later yet the said celebrant excused it as a mañanita.

These officials did not face the same accountability that the ordinary people had. These officials’ fate for violating the protocols was unlike Marawi veteran Winston Ragos who at the time suffering a trauma from the war who was shot dead by the policemen. There were also days when police officers arrested protesters even when the latter observed physical distancing. These instances, in the midst of the pandemic, revealed that there’s a huge discrepancy between the law enforcement and justice. And that justice becomes selective when treatment for quarantine violators differ depending on who is rich and influential and who is poor and powerless.

COVID-19 forced Filipinos to go home to their provinces

The pandemic has provoked many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to go home. It was the OWWA the first agency to send them home. The situation became an opportunity for Sen. Bong Go to initiate the Balik Probinsya Program which was already practiced in the past administrations and included locally-stranded people to be sent home. The program was later adopted by the president through an executive order. The project of sending these people home helped those who have anxieties on their survival from the crisis while they are away from their families. But the government seemed to be stoked about getting praises after a series of failures in handling the pandemic that planning, coordination, and proper protocols were not emphasized. As a result, the number of cases suddenly shot up. Provinces that had zero cases before the people were sent home had recorded a number of new cases due to the influx of repatriated individuals.

Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez complained that the national government did not coordinate with the LGU before sending the people of the city home and would have risked the lives of others despite their strict protocols. Since then, the once COVID-free Ormoc has recorded new cases.

What happened to Ormoc was not an isolated case. Other LGUs have the same narrative: there’s a problem with coordination. In fact, Antique has the same story. The first recorded case of Laua-an has revealed that there’s a problem with the national government through OWWA coordinating with Laua-an LGU. The town’s mayor was only informed when the two seafarers were already in San Jose quarantine facility. One of them tested positive. Thus, it is encouraged that the national government should perform proper coordination so that the LGu can prepare for the consequences.

Press freedom was gagged during pandemic

Freedom of the press and free expression was also challenged when the government misplaced its priorities. The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered the shutdown of ABS-CBN on May. About a month later, the regional court convicted Rappler’s Maria Ressa  and Reynaldo Santos Jr. by applying the Anti-Cybercrime Law retroactively and citing a law provision that was already repealed by the Revised Penal Code. And on the hype of these issues, the president certified the Anti-Terrorism Bill where some of its provisions are prone to be abused and violate constitutional rights.

The latest actions of  the government have alarmed dissenters so much so that they had called to bring back ABS-CBN on air, acquit Ressa and Santos, and junk and/or review the Anti-Terror Bill. As for Antique, Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, the province’s representative was among the solons who filed a bill for ABS-CBN franchise. She also voted “NO” for Anti-Terrorism Bill making Antiqueño dissenters thankful yet some questioned her name being in the list of principal authors of the bill.

The government seems display a lack of urgency when it certified the Anti-Terrorism Bill as if it is their priority rather than conducting mass testing. In fact, mass testing was denied first by the Department of Health (DOH) on March but later announced that mass testing would be conducted on April 14. However, the word remained a word. Only the LGUs that have capacity to conduct mass testing in their own area did it starting that day. But even on its 100th day, the government did not reach the 30, 000 tests per day target. While the debt of the Philippines rose to P8.6 trillion on April, the number of COVID-19 cases also rose at a speedy rate. The only thing that was reduced was the recovery rate and the financial situation of the people.

In the latest report, the country is already approaching the 30,000-per-day goal because 16,000 COVID-19 tests were conducted on June 17 while around 15,679 tests were done on June 19. Some credited these data as an explanation why the country has recorded high number of cases in the recent days. Though the number of tests are improving, it is important to make progress in its number efficiently. And as for Antique, each LGUs now is conducting tests for the locally stranded-individuals(LSIs),  repatriates, and frontliners.

Within the 100 days, the progress in combating the health crisis is not as massive as everybody wanted. It would stay that way if the government continues to blame its people and not looking to its own shortcomings. The situation will only get worse if all this country does is wait for the vaccine while being ‘disciplined’. What the people really need right now is a drive of inspired leadership and good governance to radiate the positive will to work together instead of being governed by fear and apathy.

Written by Jorielyn Martizano

Author: theprismdaily

The Official Student Publication of University of Antique Main Campus

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