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Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Love in the time of Wuhan Virus

The military imagery mattered more. A wall of military officers flanked President Duterte as he read the key points addressing the worsening pandemic. The image of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in a televised address from Malacañang (before television lines were cut off the air) in February 1986 was not lost, and we know what happened after that.

All that the people seek is a government that gives them confidence in a time of gripping uncertainty. Instead of clarity of information, the President chose rather the specter of brute force.

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Even that bravado turned out false: police and military and even local governments are now as clueless as a question mark on how to implement the guidelines.

Government invented a new public health jargon: community quarantine. Analyze why it is so and the answer isn’t anywhere like a needle in a haystack. “Community quarantine” is neither that nor a lockdown: flights to and from China are not banned, have never been banned, actually. Decode the most contradictory (but not cryptic) parts of the guidelines: entry travel to the country is restricted, but overseas Filipino workers wishing to return to China may do so because the flights are still there.

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And that, friends, is the reason the government cannot use the term “lockdown.” Instead, it acted as a wordsmith by creating a euphemism. Because in truth, it refuses to ban all flights to and from China, as even Singapore, in its very curated response designed to make the tiny island state one step ahead, had done, even without imposing a lockdown. That is the essence.

Effectively, the response is reduced to a cosmetic makeup designed to feign there is a concerted government response. Was it merely meant to sate the Filipino psychology so that he will not be ousted from office? Cyber warrior and critic Katrina Stuart Santiago avers in anger: “Duterte government doesn’t care about people dying from this virus. They care about ensuring we don’t get angry enough to organize and oust him.”

A pandemic in a poor corrupt country like ours requires ultimately worrying about the less privileged and the weak immune-compromised members of society. To be sure, expect not only a health fall-out but also a social meltdown of the poor. The guidelines render invisible at once the social disparities. A top epidemiologist advising the Department of Health itemizes the hygiene baselines:

“1) Please stay home if you can.” For informal settlers packed like sardines in a hovel, no they can’t. The epidemiologist continues: “Food service delivery will still work. Catch up on reading or Netflix.” Slum dwellers watching Netflix and munching on delivered fast food?

More: “2) Practice stringent social distancing. Keep at least one arm-length from each other.” One arm-length or even less of that, by the way, is also the distance between one and the next neighbor. Talk about using hand sanitizers is incongruous in neighborhoods that do not even have water and sanitation.

The government is culturing a petri dish of us. Notice the glaring absences that should have inspired medical security: How many ICU beds in the whole country can accommodate those infected? How many test kits do we have now? And kudos to the University of the Philippines for developing a test kit approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Absent these, the press conference was a show of kakistocratic ineptness and incoherence.

Instead of setting hard priorities, he manages to praise how hardworking Bong Go is, who should have been in the Senate where we pay for his workload (hence do I need to call him senator?). More ridiculously, he inserts his signature sweet-nothing for the love of his life: expressions of love and gratitude for Xi Jinping whose authoritarian regime muzzled doctors and detained them for revealing the initial stages of the contamination in Wuhan, which would have averted the global disaster.

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Time to counter the China-Duterte narrative. China’s new puppet WHO calls it COVID-19. I, by my freedom of speech, call it the Wuhan Virus, because that—to use his expletive—is the country f—ng us. (Cough!)

On Twitter: @AntonioJMontal2. Email: [email protected]

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TAGS: Antonio J. Montalvan II, Kris-Crossing Mindanano
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