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War, war, war

/ 01:00 AM July 24, 2020

There has been so much controversy lately when we are in the midst of the greatest controversy of all – a pandemic that claims more victims by the day. It has made it difficult for me to stay clear-headed when some of these controversies are quite provocative. Yet, when I come to think about it, Covid-19 the pandemic would not have its impact on whole humanity if it did not disrupt our lives so dramatically.

With the ABS-CBN and the Anti-Terror Law intruding into a situation messy enough with Covid-19, I was beginning to wonder what our priorities are. Luckily, I caught a replayed video footage of a meeting chaired by President Duterte himself when key members of the IATF were giving him updates. A simple statement by the President gave me assurance that, in his own words, “Covid-19 is the most important.” It should be if we are still engaged in a war with it. And it should be our primordial focus if we are to win the war.

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In a war, the unity of the people is fundamental to victory, just as much as divisiveness would prove disastrous to the nation. This desired unity is the central message and exhortation of the government’s Bayanihan Heal-as-One strategy. I totally agree with both the intent and the battle cry. In fact, if at this time, I have serious reservations, it is not because I do not believe in it anymore. My reservations are precisely because I believe, and I am not reassured by the way things are going.

It might just be a matter of miscommunication, a matter where our officials, particularly the DOH and the IATF, are not sensitive and adept at reporting developments, using either wrong phrases or questionable statistics. I am sure that they realize how fear is the overriding factor that has defined our lives since March. Fear is the weapon of Covid-19. Yes, there is solid basis for us to be afraid, but there is also unnecessary fear that has been stoked because of perceived underperformance by government.

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The perception of ineptness relates directly to the measure of victory or success, capsulized in the famous phrase “flattening the curve.” Because DOH and the IATF made the flattening of the curve as their target, each time the curve climbs instead of flattening, Filipinos are depressed. And the curve is climbing, not flattening. And if flattening the curve becomes an impossible dream, then government should present another target, a reachable one in the immediate future, in order to encourage the people to hope.

If truly Covid-19 is a war and the most important concern of the nation, then all of us should go out of our way not to create more wars. There has been a four-year-old war against drugs, another war that we do not see ourselves winning despite the cost of more lives than what Covid-19 has snuffed out so far. The war against drugs does not give us much choice because there is a drug scourge. While we wish to focus on the war against Covid-19, we cannot ease up on the war against drugs. But if we are not winning that war, then maybe we can fight it another way.

There is also the war against terrorists. I can understand that the Abu Sayyaf and other radical extremists are terrorists. The NPA is a rebel organization. Rebel or terrorist, it is an enemy of the state and the people. Or is this not the way the people, in general, regard them? There must be a way for Filipinos to understand and accept who their enemies are. If they do, they would support the ways that government can win the war against rebels or terrorists. But if they do not fully understand that the enemy is truly an enemy, we cannot expect Filipinos to give their all-out cooperation. All the more, the lines will be hazy with legal organizations that are sympathetic to the rebellion.

Are we winning the war against terrorists, and more specifically, the NPA? From the kind of effort that was dedicated to passing the Anti-Terror Law, it does seem we were not winning. That, then, becomes the hope – that the Anti-Terror Law would be a major tool in winning the war. I hope that the country can see dividends very soon and very consistently. Otherwise, like the war against drugs, we might have to reconsider changing the way we are fighting the war.

Now, I keep hearing from Congress, and sometimes from the President, that there might be another war. This time, it will be a war against oligarchs. If this is not true, I hope that the President and Congress can clarify this perception borne from statements coming from them. If true, they can help the citizenry by defining what an oligarch is and how a set of oligarchs are engaged in illegal acts undermining the state and the common good.

There are richer and more influential individuals and families in the Philippines who have more employees and influence on other industries than the Lopezes of ABS-CBN. Do we wage a war against the 50 or 100 families who own and control the majority of Philippine businesses? Or is this kind of war just political maneuvering to eliminate perceived political enemies and does not cover oligarchs and political dynasties friendly to the administration? My thoughts are quite simplistic. How do we win a war like Covid-19 while we create more wars and weaken ourselves unnecessarily?

It is time to choose our wars because it is time to win the wars we choose. The worst is yet to come with Covid-19 and we are beginning to see just how difficult a war it will be. We need to be productive, we need to be working, we need to be studying, but we will be doing all these risking our health and our lives. I agree with the President. Covid-19 is the war that we confront first and find a winning line.

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