Shared Responsibility

Fighting COVID-19 and fighting for national survival is a shared responsibility of both the government and Filipino citizens, and I hope it is not too late for everyone to realize that and do something about it.

The Philippines is now on its fourth month of being under community quarantine to protect the country and Filipinos from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and the virus. 

On June 30, 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte, upon the recommendation of the members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), placed Cebu City under an extended Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), as the city saw an alarming increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, which is now larger than Quezon City and other larger highly urbanized cities in Metro Manila, causing concerns about its health care system being stretched beyond its limits and the further spread of the disease to its neighboring cities and municipalities and the rest of Cebu province and Central Visayas. On the other hand, Metro Manila remained under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) despite a still increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the metropolis. Other areas in the country remained under GCQ and Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), while some areas that were previously under GCQ such as Batangas, Laguna and Cebu province transitioned to MGCQ but with strict local action such as the local government units (LGUs) being empowered to impose localized lockdowns and the implementation of strict minimum health standards.

One thing that emerged during the past few days is the apparent lack of discipline, sense of personal responsibility and accountability, and sense of regard towards the welfare of other people and the community by a large number of Filipinos. In Cebu City, Sitio Alumnos in Barangay Basak San Nicolas celebrated its fiesta by holding a sinulog, where a large number of people from within the community were out on the streets to dance as statues of their patron saints, escorted by priests and dancers, passed through. In Metro Manila, a large number of people were seen gathering at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) grounds, exercising and bonding without any form of social distancing and without even wearing face masks like as if it is any normal Sunday. The apparent lack of regard for health protocols by a large of Filipinos can be seen almost everywhere, documented on social media or otherwise.

What is more disappointing is how the Left, liberals, "wokes" (millennial and Generation Z Filipinos who espouse Marxist-Leninist-Maoist leanings) and partisan press justify the obvious lack of discipline, sense of personal responsibility and accountability, and sense of regard towards the welfare of other people and the community by a large number of Filipinos. To no surprise, they put the blame on the Duterte administration, calling the action being taken by the government as "inadequate" and accusing it of "focusing on other things" such as the need to enact and implement an anti-terrorism law, a long overdue measure since the Philippines is a magnet for terrorist activity. There is even one news report that justified the lack of discipline of Filipinos by citing Apple and Google data despite the fact that there widely circulated photos of people doing things like as if it is business as usual and that the nation is not dealing with a global pandemic being widespread. They even have the gall to do an apples to oranges comparison by juxtaposing the Philippine government's COVID-19 response to those done by Vietnam, a Communist totalitarian state that uses a top-down approach and its massive military and community surveillance network to deal with the pandemic on top of its iron fist method on those who will resist treatment and those who will oppose the government, in general, and Thailand, a close ally of China that has been under a military junta since the Army-led coup ousted the civilian government from power in 2014 and where those who oppose the government and its approach to dealing with the disease are being treated with an iron fist approach.

Frankly speaking, COVID-19 response is a shared responsibility of both the government and the citizenry. The government is tasked to come up with measures to protect the country and its people from COVID-19 and find a way to deny hosts to the virus that causes the disease. On the other hand, citizens, being on the first line of community-based defense against COVID-19, should practice minimum health standards, which are the wearing of face masks, washing of hands with soap and water, and maintaining physical distance of at least one meter from the next person.

The response of the Duterte administration to the COVID-19 pandemic is far from perfect, but despite that it was able to prevent millions of Filipinos from dying and the overall health care system to be overrun by a deluge of cases. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized the effort, adding that there is a need for the Philippine Government to strengthen the public health care system, long neglected by the post-Marcos administrations, and intensify contact tracing efforts in order to find those who have to be tested and treated. There is no country in the world that can come up with a perfect response to COVID-19 since this is a once in a lifetime pandemic that caught everyone, including those that have built strong health care systems as a response to the SARS pandemic during the early 2000's and those preparing for biological warfare, by surprise.

However, the government can do only much in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Filipinos should fulfill their side of the national response by being disciplined, exercising personal responsibility and accountability, and having a sense of regard for the welfare of others and the community. This can be done by, at the very least, exercising minimum health standards, comprised of the wearing of face masks, washing of the hands with soap and water, practicing proper coughing and sneezing etiquette by covering the mouth and nose with a tissue paper or handkerchief or, if both are not available, the sleeves of the shirt, and maintaining a minimum physical distance of one meter. They should also follow government-issued guidelines and protocols, and the law since these are formulated and implemented to promote general welfare and protect the nation for the spread of COVID-19.

The utmost priority of the Philippines and Filipinos now should be national survival. By not being united, being sorely lacking in discipline, and not having a sense of personal responsibility and accountability and sense of regard for the welfare of others and the community, the Philippines and Filipinos are not going to survive COVID-19, and, worse, may cease to exist as one nation and one people. Fighting COVID-19 and fighting for national survival is a shared responsibility of both the government and Filipino citizens, and I hope it is not too late for everyone to realize that and do something about it.

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About the Author
Benedict is an agricultural economist, academician and writer. He has gained experience and expertise in various fields of economics, business, political science and public relations after through professional ventures in the academe, and in the public and private sectors. He has authored or co-authored key publications on topics ranging from agriculture and food security to global affairs and politics.
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