Politicizing a pandemic

Politicizing a pandemic"Why are we easing restrictions when the numbers are still getting higher?"


Santa Banana, with the warning of no less than the World Health Organization that the COVID-19 pandemic will still get worse, and with a vaccine still nowhere in sight, I wonder why President Duterte and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases keep on easing protocols.

The pandemic has already breached the 10-million mark globally, and the numbers keep on rising. Here at home, we have reached 35,000. The Philippines has seen remarkable increase among countries in the Western Pacific.

I believe that the President and the IATF are doing their best to keep the numbers down. Still these best efforts are inadequate. I wonder—what is the reason other countries are beating COVID-19 and we are not.

This is just my observation. My opinion. It appears that political expediency has entered the picture, like in the case of Metro Manila where I live. The IATF relies too much on the recommendations of the Metro Manila Development Council, composed of 17 Metro Manila mayors. In turn, the IATF passes on this recommendation to the President.

The end result is our current situation.

I suggest the President study how other countries are beating the virus.

* * *

Cebu City is now the epicenter of the pandemic in the Philippines. The reason for this is that the Cebuanos do not seem to respect guidelines and protocols. They violate measures such as wearing face masks and practicing physical distancing. These are the best ways to stop the transmission of the virus.

We should all understand that unless we observe all guidelines, we can only expect COVID-19 to get worse.

The problem is that people who have been rendered jobless because of COVID-19 and those who have lost their livelihood are now desperate to go to work. They are willing to take safety risks.

This is where government should step in and control the people, even if it means solutions like what the President has done in Cebu. There is need for draconian measures. I am sure the President realizes this­—then again, he is also a politician.

* * * 

 Santa Banana, in my 70 years as a journalist, I have seen many instances when libel convictions spark an outcry that human rights are being curtailed, or that press freedom is being stifled. There is a chilling effect, they say. The same is happening now with the conviction of Rappler’s Maria Ressa of cyberlibel.

But we should all keep in mind that freedom of the press is not absolute.

Another instance is the case of ABS-CBN network, which was ordered shut down by the National Telecommunications Commission. Those with bleeding hearts for the Lopezes now say there is a threat to freedom of the press.

But is there, really?

I don’t think press freedom is even involved at all! I was business editor for The Philippines Herald many years ago, and I knew that the Lopezes used their network for money, politics and power.

Every network franchise holder has some things it can and cannot do. An example of the latter is the issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts to foreigners, because the 1987 Constitution is very clear that ownership and management of mass media are limited to Filipino citizens.

Sure, foreigners holding PDRs cannot vote, but they are still deemed owners.

The Lopezes have had their heyday, but the good times will not last forever. That is the real issue, not freedom of the press.

* * * 

I cannot see the reason why the IATF is still prohibiting jeepneys from plying their regular routes. Modernized jeepneys are here, yes, but the elimination of traditional jeepneys has created a bigger problem for the government. Now the drivers roam the streets, begging.

I cannot believe that the government would resort to the phaseout of traditional jeepneys at this time, when many are getting hungry. It is hardly the time for this plan to be implemented!

My heart goes out to the drivers asking for alms because they have no more income. They could become desperate.

Topics: coronavirus pandemic , Rodrigo Duterte , Metro Manila Development Council , Cebu City
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