20mar17-It’s a public health, not a security, crisis

POSTSCRIPT / March 17, 2020 / Tuesday

It’s a public health, not a security, crisis

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

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IT IS odd that while the coronavirus (COVID-19) scourge is a public health emergency more than a security threat, President Duterte’s military-police apparatus is playing the lead role of enforcing the rules and guidelines.

Sufficiently scared by the pandemic that has downed more than 152,000 worldwide as of Sunday, including 140 (11 of whom have died) in the Philippines, Filipinos appear to be adjusting to “lockdowns” and other draconian restrictions to their normal lifestyle disrupted by the new coronavirus.

The conditioning of the public mind to harsh COVID measures could, in effect, be a soft preparation in case somebody with dictatorial tendencies decides to stay in power longer than what law and decency allow.

Has Duterte found accidentally a legal justification for a military-backed autocratic regime playing with infectious viruses against which the Constitution, a “never-again” charter written in reaction to Marcosian martial law, has no provision?

With assist from the novel coronavirus that broke out in Wuhan City, China, in December, Duterte has added to the citizens’ vocabulary such euphemisms as “community quarantine” (lockdown), “social distancing” (crowd control) and “public safety hours” (curfew).

The coronavirus thrust of Duterte’s rambling rhetoric has been picked up by the loyal legion in the provinces, so now a growing number of local executives – as far north as Batanes and as far south as Davao – have imposed their own versions of the lockdown and curfew.

What emerges is a jigsaw map of provincial areas walling themselves in from the rest of the country, with the intercourse (another euphemism) among the locked-down jurisdictions managed by the military and the police at checkpoints and on patrol.

Is anybody complaining, loud enough, about the tattered supremacy of civilians over military-police forces, the violation of civil rights, loss of business, jobs and income, dwindling food supplies and rising prices, and the serious economic dislocation whose long-term impact is yet to be measured?

Raffy Tima of GMA News said on Twitter that an official involved in the Metro Manila lockdown admitted there was not enough time to study, consult and plan all contingencies relating to the community quarantine as ordered by Duterte, hence their plea of “just obey.”

At least the CORVID infection and death counts are now rising after the slow start, thanks to the probability of an epidemic having roused up Duterte into being more honest with the figures and ordering a more comprehensive testing of individuals suspected of being infected.

It is widely discussed in social media that the initial low figures that gave rise to the unfortunate complacency resulted from the government’s failure to react promptly and test a good number of suspects, compounded by a reticence of Malacañang to trace the outbreak to mainland China.

It turned out that the government had only around 2,000 test kits for an all-out campaign to detect and nip the COVID bud. An honest counter-drive requires big money. The health department’s budget has been chopped up, however, and the morsels slipped elsewhere.

Duterte’s finance men were suggesting borrowing the huge sums needed, but were quiet about the P4.5 billion confidential and intelligence funds of the President, a pile bigger than the combined intelligence budgets of the police and the military. (Where do the intel billions go?)

He ruled out collecting billions in unpaid taxes and penalties from Chinese-managed Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators (POGOs) which he said were “clean.” (For his own good, the President should avoid inserting praises of China in his statements on subjects not related to it.)

• COVID didn’t stop CAMI Clark Cup

NOTWITHSTANDING the then impending “community quarantine” of Metro Manila amidst the COVID scare, the 7th Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI) Clark Golf Cup went well last Friday (March 13) at the Mimosa golf course at Clark Freeport in Pampanga.

Nineteen players joined the invitational tournament which started at 8 a.m. in a sequential format.

Sonny Bordon of the Mabalacat Golfers Association emerged as overall champion with a net score of 71. He was declared winner with a win by count back.

For Class A, the champion was Gen. Jun Mison while veteran journalist Alex Magno was runner-up. For Class B, the champion was perennial qualifier Gold Ong and the runner-up was Ernesto Ngo.

In the Class C division, the champion was Sharon Ngo while another veteran journalist Conrad Banal was the runner-up.

Among those who supported the golf tournament were consistent Platinum sponsor San Miguel Corp., and Gold sponsors Converge ICT Solutions Inc., SMART Communications, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., Waterfront Hotel and Casinos, and Hausland Development Corp.

Silver sponsors were Cherrylume & Sumo, Bank of the Philippine Islands, OISHI, Meralco, NLEX Corp, Pampanga Gov. Dennis “Delta” Pineda and Dumaguete City Mayor Felipe Antonio “Ping” Remollo.

Bronze sponsors were MegaWide, Development Bank of the Philippines, Ayala Land, Steel Asia, Clark Water, Metro Clark Waste Management Corp., the Clark Development Corp and Pradera Verde.

The Hole sponsors were Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Mekeni Food Corp., Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Administrator Wilma Eisma, Sen. Lito Lapid, Westchester Realty Corp., Metro Clark, and Full Circle Communications.

The minor sponsors were  Jollibee Foods Corp. ABS-CBN, Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines, Chevron, DMCI, UNILEVER, Manila Water, Maynilad, Quest Hotel, Mimosa Plus and Cebu Pacific.

 

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 17, 2020. Follow the author on Twitter as @FDPascual.

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