Solidarity in the time of COVID-19 -- MS Supplement

Setting examples

In the early days of the Luzon-wide lockdown in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, a 69-year-old homeless woman in Manila was arrested after she shouted at barangay police who woke her up to enforce a curfew.

Setting examples

Dorothy Espejo, who lived on the streets in Leveriza, Malate, faced three charges, including violation of a law that prohibits resistance and disobedience to authority, which is punishable by a fine not exceeding P100,000 and imprisonment of up to six months.

More recently, two health workers caught back-riding on a motorcycle on their way home to Bulacan were fined P5,000 by traffic enforcers in Valenzuela City.

Gerald Libiran, who works at Philippine Orthopedic Center, told a TV interview that he fetched his brother Mark from the National Children’s Hospital because the shuttle provided to health workers goes through Fairview instead of MacArthur Highway.

They were stopped at Potrero Malabon, but traffic enforcers there waved them through after they showed them their IDs. They were frontliners, they were told. They were okay.

But when they arrived in Valenzuela, traffic enforcers confiscated Gerald’s license, telling them the Department of Transportation has prohibited back-riding. When Gerald returned the next day to claim his license, he was stunned to learn that the fine was P5,000—almost half his monthly salary.

Valenzuela’s mayor shrugged the incident off, saying the guidelines on the social distancing rules do not allow exemptions for frontliners caught back-riding.

We understand that in enforcing the law—or directives in a public health emergency—examples need to be set. However, in both cases, it is the government that failed the quarantine violators.

After all, whose fault was it that homeless people were not attended to before the lockdown began? What was the Department of Social Welfare and Development doing?

The government failed the Libiran brothers too—by failing to provide a responsive transportation system to bring frontline health workers safely to and from their place of work.

The authorities in Valenzuela compounded the insult by their callousness—and refusal to offer the frontliners any relief.

In the midst of a pandemic, the government keeps telling us that health workers are the new heroes, risking their lives for our safety. Is this the thanks they deserve?

A recent call for volunteers to work in three government hospitals that are straining under the number of COVID-19 cases drew a response from almost 700 health workers—who were then told that they will be paid a paltry P500 a day for their service.

By now, of course, we shouldn't be too surprised by the mixed messages that government sends out.

In stark contrast to the iron-fist policy against ordinary folk, government officials seem to be in no hurry to penalize senators who blatantly violate the Department of Health guidelines on social distancing, and who endanger the lives of those they come in contact with, including frontline health workers.

One senator went to a private hospital and a large supermarket, even though he knew he was awaiting the results of his COVID-19 test. How many people did he endanger? Why did one of his colleagues in the Senate ask for compassion, when nobody showed any compassion to Espejo or the Libiran brothers?

Another senator distributed aid to a large crowd of fire victims in Butuan City. A selfie of the senator and the crowd of aid recipients was posted on the Philippine Information Agency’s Facebook page, a mockery if ever there was one of social distancing guidelines.

What kind of examples are we setting?

Topics: COVID-19 , Lockdown , Frontlinets , Philippine Information Agency , social distancing
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