New year, same old stories: Poverty, corruption, oppressive policies
A new year has come but the same old stories still haunt our days—poverty and unemployment are still rampant, the health care system of the country still can barely keep up with the pandemic, and another typhoon hit last month, destroying houses and taking away lives over the holiday season.
Yet, we still see Filipinos being resilient as ever, still smiling and making the most of each situation.
That story sounds good, right?
But no matter how good it sounds, that is exactly the problem. In difficult situations that could have been mitigated, we rely on abstract values of resiliency and “bayanihan.” This is not completely wrong, but it fails to consider the root cause of the problems. Romanticizing resiliency leads us to false assumptions that do not allow us to realize the bigger things that affect us.
Many Filipinos lost jobs and income with the pandemic and health restrictions. Along with this, our health care system, facilities, equipment, and manpower were heavily tested with the surge of cases. Now, a lot of families affected by Supertyphoon “Odette” in the Visayas and Mindanao welcomed 2022 without electricity, basic needs, and homes.
Instead of relying on and highlighting the resiliency and kindness of people in telling the stories of those who suffer and are affected, let us start digging the root causes and start thinking sociologically about why people need to be resilient in the first place as if there is no other choice.
Negligence and lack of accountability from the people in power are among the main reasons for the rampant poverty and unemployment that manifested heavily in the past years of lockdowns. Negligence of the people’s basic rights such as education and access to basic needs like health care and food leads to social problems and injustice.
The lack of accountability from government on important matters from corruption to oppressive policies only jeopardizes the people’s safety. Many issues emerged last year manifesting these two root causes such as the Pharmally scandal and the controversial dolomite beach costing millions, if not billions, in taxpayer money. In hindsight, these funds could have been used to save lives, compensate health care workers properly, and even improve facilities.
There seem to be no concrete plans and actions that have been laid out. This is obvious in how the government has been handling the pandemic. This was the story last year: hospitals at full capacity and supplies coming short, the vaccination roll-out was frustrating and cases were surging. Yet, as the new year unfolded, the same stories of slow vaccination and COVID-19 cases surging have compromised various aspects such as economy and education. People kept asking for a more science-based approach to mitigate the effects of the virus, but instead, the policies given led to more confusion.
On top of the pandemic, a natural disaster struck the country. Odette devastated a lot of families; livelihoods, properties, houses, and lives were swept away. In a tropical country like the Philippines where typhoons hit several times in a year, well-planned disaster preparedness programs mitigating the severe effects should already be in place. Instead of being reactive, we should be proactive in addressing these issues.
This 2022, it is time to get our stories right. It is not just about being resilient and strong or relying on the kindness of others. This year, let us manifest an accountable and responsible governance, concrete plans and actions, as well as awareness and preparedness for future disasters.
Christel Janela Baptista, Baguio City
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