Let us help each other
There was a lot of President-bashing after Thursday night’s presidential address to the country. Surrounded by Cabinet members and police and military, President Duterte proceeded to explain to the Filipino people
Resolution 11 of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. His critics point out that his ramblings confused rather than clarified, that he was pushing Sen. Bong Go and Chinese President Xi Jinping down our collective throats, and that his address was three hours late.So I watched it on YouTube, prepared to accept the critics’ version, especially since his previous press conference three or four days ago was a disaster, verging on incomprehensibility, what with going off on tangents, ramblings, praise yet again for Xi Jinping, and calling the Philippines this “f…ing country.”
Reader, at the risk of another “f… you” being thrown at me, I must say that I began to understand why most Filipinos love him and seemingly forgive his mistakes. He wasn’t talking to the elite, who understand English, or who would be confident in the face of the police or military, or disaster. He was addressing the poor, the marginalized, as he translated the English of Resolution 11 into Filipino. At the same time he was reassuring them, particularly about the possible increased presence of the police and the military (they are your soldiers), and advising them how to behave (don’t be arrogant), and telling them that the government was going to do all that it can to help them. Just like a father, or a big brother, would.
I have heard only one other leader who was so reassuring to his people—and that was Fidel Castro.
Certainly, the President made sure to foist Bong Go and Xi Jinping down our necks. But he also praised the IATF and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III for doing a good job. And from his recent position (the previous press conference) where he was against a lockdown of Metro Manila, his volte-face—showing his willingness to humble himself in the presence of solid arguments—was comforting. The IATF called it “community quarantine,” he called it lockdown—no trying to camouflage.
And all these done without a single cuss word dropped. It must have been a good day for the President.
Of course, questions still remain. Are these enough to overcome the virus? What about its impact on the economy?
Experts say that three things are necessary to beat the virus and its health and economic effects: one is a good (quality) health system; two is good governance; and three is social capital.
As far as the Philippine health system is concerned, the World Health Organization has classified us among countries that are “well prepared” (second category—the first category are mostly First World countries) to handle a health crisis like the COVID-19. The fact that Duque and the IATF recommended that Metro Manila go on lockdown is an indication that the Department of Health has learned from the experiences of other countries. And he assures us (in an interview to be aired on Tuesday) that the DOH has no financial constraints in its war on COVID-19. So, as
far as the first requirement is concerned, we have no problem.
The second requirement is more problematic. Good governance is not the Philippines’ strong suit, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s StatDev. Also, the International Monetary Fund is urging governments to adopt strong, “targeted” policies which will address not the health of the people, but the health of the economy. Example: banks’ temporary suspension of loan repayments from affected enterprises; affected enterprises doing all it can before letting go of its laborers; assistance to terminated workers. Except for the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines’ suspension of airport fees from airlines, I have not heard of any systematic study of what industries to target and how to target them.
The third requirement—social capital, which encompasses the social networking that takes place in our society, how the Filipino people interact with each other—may be the most problematic, but is entirely in our hands. Do we help each other (bayanihan) in a crisis, or do we think only of ourselves (hoarding)? Are we egocentric, or sociocentric?
Let us help each other, Philippines. Shame on those who think only of themselves in times of crisis.
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