In this public health crisis that has fully disrupted life as you know it, you want to follow your government’s lead. You expect the unadulterated lowdown from responsible officials — the way, for example, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addresses his fellow Singaporeans and lays down in clear and simple language his government’s plans on navigating the waters churned by the COVID-19 pandemic. If apprised of the realities on the ground and what may be expected in the foreseeable future, you are quite willing to toe the line and are indeed confident of the wisdom of doing so.
You are not unreasonable. You merely find being coerced into staying indoors by the armed might of the state and being talked at by the government’s talking heads unacceptable and unendurable.
You want to comply with the directives of authorities who constantly study the situation and respect you enough not to give you claptrap. You want to be provided information that will boost your understanding of the gravity of the contagion, and not be nonplussed by, say, a “mass recovery adjustment” of 38,075 recoveries in a single day, when that day has registered 3,954 additional confirmed cases.
You are outraged at being seemingly stampeded into believing that the government is turning the tide against the pandemic when the official numbers have been declaring otherwise. As a diligent taxpayer who subsidizes the sky-high salaries of the Solicitor General and other worthies, and, along with each Filipino, is now in hock to the tune of more than P80,000 by virtue of the government’s borrowings, you want from the Department of Health straightforward data and from Malacañang a coherent and cogent plan to get the nation back on its feet as it fights off the virus with a stick.
You are not amused by jokes and deem it an affront that they are being cracked when as many as 2,023 deaths due to COVID-19 were registered as August swung in. And you should not be expected to appreciate the President’s repeated “advice” that “ga-as” can be used to disinfect face masks.
You want to hear from your government how infections can be kept low as businesses reopen and public transportation is ever so slowly allowed to resume operations, without the continuing threat of state violence against the populace, particularly the poor. You wonder if authorities are aware of survey results demonstrating the people’s general compliance with health protocols such as wearing masks and keeping to physical distancing—except during times when those yearning to get home are driven to a profound desperation that responsible officials, having never experienced it, cannot quite grasp and have no idea of easing beyond an astounding serenade by the police marching band.
You wait anxiously to see the government beefing up testing when it took forever to concede that testing kits produced locally are at par with those acquired from overseas at perversely expensive prices. You want to see it performing effective contact tracing without depending on gossips and busybodies and without treating those infected as virtual criminals.
(In its Facebook page, Barangay Kamuning under Kapitana Armie Castel shows the way to a sensible and humane approach. It encourages a positive and proactive attitude among those infected in terms of proper isolation, nutrition and rest, and a stringent adherence to health protocols. It encourages as well a sense of responsibility and compassion among neighbors: “Kung nag-positive ang kapitbahay o ka-barangay mo, wala silang kasalanan. Kaya huwag mo nang ikuwento kung kani-kanino na wala namang kaugnayan o maitutulong kundi ang pagusapan ang buhay ng iba.” More: Your infected neighbor is not to be feared or treated like a leper. “Ang kailangan mong gawin ay maging maingat, sundin ang health safety protocols, at maging healthy. Mas kailangan ng na-infect ang peace of mind, masustansyang pagkain, at prayers mula sa iyo.”)
You strive to maintain dignity and take charge of your life, such as what it has become, to the best of your (grown-limited) abilities — religiously wearing a mask or any suitable face covering, ensuring personal hygiene and sanitary surroundings, practicing physical distancing at work and other places outdoors, and doing your best to help those less fortunate. You have accepted that this plague — in the sharp formulation of Singapore’s Lee, an economic, social, and political problem, and not only a public health issue — is here for the long term.
Still you want badly to be assured that your government’s got this. But it’s a futile stance, you discover, because you have been left to your own devices. You are to stay alive until December when, the wisecracking President assures all and sundry, the hegemon encroaching on the West Philippine Sea produces a vaccine.
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