'In the name of keeping us “safe”'
In yet another example of how the authorities are turning the screws on ordinary people during this pandemic, Metro Manila mayors have passed a resolution barring residents from going out of their homes for exercise.
The resolution, signed by Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chief Benhur Abalos, imposes the ban for the entire two-week lockdown in the National Capital Region (NCR) because of the steady rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, including confirmed cases of the highly-transmissible and lethal Delta variant.
The resolution gives almost no rationale or scientific basis for the ban, saying only this:
“Whereas the Metro Manila Council recognizes the need of the citizenry to engage in various forms of outdoor exercise in order (sic) promote and maintain physical, mental and emotional health, the Council is also mindful of the fact that staying at home or remaining indoors is one of the best protection (sic) against the pandemic during the ECQ.”
In imposing the ban, the mayors have chosen to believe the unproven fear (that outdoor exercises such as walking, jogging or cycling can spread the virus in a significant way) over a proven benefit (that such activities contribute to the well-being of people who are already under stress during a pandemic).
Instead of issuing a ban, the mayors could have issued guidelines on how to exercise safely outdoors—do not walk or jog in groups, don’t talk to others, maintain a physical distance from other people, wear masks—but maybe that was too much work, and it was just simply easier to bar people from an activity that might actually help them get through this pandemic.
Then there is the matter of enforcement.
What do the mayors really want to do with the lone walker or jogger who defies the ban? Will they have a village tanod arrest them? Or heaven forbid, shoot them?
That was the fate of a 59-year-old curfew violator with mental illness on Aug. 7, when he was shot dead by a trigger-happy tanod on Tayuman Street in Tondo, Manila. This was reminiscent of the death of another mentally ill 57-year-old unarmed man shot and killed during a lockdown in April 2020.
All this, in the name of keeping us “safe.”
We understand that there are real dangers in the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, but we would hope that our leaders—especially our mayors—go about dealing with them in a rational manner that respects our rights to stay physically and mentally fit, even during a lockdown.