Of The People
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Of The People

How The Coronavirus Exposed Our Society’s Weakness

Written by Bernice Zarzuela, 13 | OFTP Community

Art by [@peopleiveloved] on Instagram

Undeniably, the Coronavirus crisis had been one in many factors that exploited the errs of not only the Philippine government but also the many faults in the world’s biggest superpowers. As the worldwide case count hovers 4 million and 600 thousand, we come to notice how our society deals with the crisis and the many more arising problems in healthcare and equality.

Besides, the problem doesn’t rest with stubborn leaders on their own, it’s with the stubborn members of the population who follow their example. The crux of the problem in today’s society is the mindset of “pinuno ka, tama ka” and the populace would reflect the same ideologies as a man in authority. An incompetent leader often warrants an incompetent public, and today we’ll be exploring that hypothesis.

103 days ago, the Department of Health reported the country’s first novel coronavirus case, that of a 38 year old Chinese national. On that same day the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, commonly referred to as the RITM, developed the capability to conduct confirmatory tests. As our neighboring countries took quick action to restrict travel and employ emergency measures, our country was quite late in following suit. A day after the first case in the Philippines was reported, President Duterte issued a travel ban only for passengers originating from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak. From here arises the first problem in our system; inaction. Agreed, we did do something, but effectivity is another aspect of making big decisions. Moving on:

Adding on to this factor of inaction, one of many issues we’ve had is our hesitance: “If we do this, then the concerned country — China in this case ​ — ​​​​​​ might question why we’re not doing the same for other countries that have reported confirmed cases of novel coronavirus,”; a response from DOH Secretary Francisco Duque. He, along with many other public health officials, was quite reluctant to expand the travel ban to the entirety of China, in fear of severing their already-frosty ties with the Asian superpower.

Singapore: a major transport hub and one of the most popular tourist destinations, and among the many countries who first took on the initiative of banning incoming flights from Wuhan, China; while also subjecting Chinese passengers to mandatory quarantine and rigorous health inspection. Taiwan, meanwhile, subjected Chinese nationals to inspection, and also quickly suspended flights from 4 major airlines incoming from Wuhan as soon as the epidemic crisis became clear.

The Philippines, on the other hand, seemingly dismissed the situation; two weeks into the Wuhan lockdown, President Duterte nonchalantly brushed off the crisis by stating everything is well. “There’s nothing really to be extra scared of that coronavirus thing” since it will eventually “die on its own.” Furthermore he requests of the people to not be “hysterical” and later reminds them that to “have faith in humanity” all more supported by the claim that the Filipino is a “resilient” people. Perhaps this mindset would become an explanation as to why the Philippines has yet to procure larger amounts of testing kits to improve on the response to the crisis.

Here arises our third problem. Stressed by the World Health Organization, the true key in the fight in flattening the curve is mass testing and the Philippine government is yet to acquire the resources to obtain more testing kits. What also is disturbing is the fact that the government has yet to establish the mass testing program to detect such cases, adding that authorities are to leave these in the hands of the private sector. Since their declaration of “mass testing” on the 14th of April, we can obviously see that many of their promises turned out to be empty. Say that the government did develop a sound plan to battle the virus’ spread, yet we still lack the resources (or so we thought) to procure the facilities.

What makes matters even worse in the field of mass testing is the presence of VIP treatment. One Senator Koko Pimentel repeatedly violated quarantine laws by accompanying his wife to the emergency room, knowingly that his contraction of the coronavirus exposed the already-dwindling medical personnel. He also admitted to attending parties and functions while under medical investigation. The DOH even admitted to providing special treatment to the elites in public office and those in authority. The system is very obviously favoring those in power, ignoring the pleas of those who stand in the frontline against the coronavirus and their own families. Many youth activists have called out the inherent ignorance and the rising prevalence of those politicians who needlessly exploit their privilege whilst disregarding the most vulnerable men during the crisis.

In the past few months we’ve found congressional approval for Duterte’s emergency powers, and even unlocked the war chest worth 1.7 billion USD. Yet the biggest problem that still shackles the Philippines in its chain is the endless chain of corruption, deceit, and empty promises, the many problems we continue to fight against to this day. However, as the knowledge flows from one societal group to another, we now begin to ponder if this truly would make a change.

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Making creative activism accessible. Community member content for /OfThePeople, currently based in the Philippines.