The initial shock and confusion that arose during the first week of the metro-wide community quarantine laid bare not a few hitches and glitches in its implementation.
There was resistance in the beginning, and a thread of worry that ran through those families dependent on daily wages.
No work, no pay — and that meant no food.
Private sector was quick to act. Companies pledged to support their employees affected by the quarantine. Individuals and organizations made efforts to raise funds to help the self-employed, unemployed, stranded and homeless.
Meanwhile, the sick and the frontliners were getting their share of help, even as more parties strove to provide as much of the populace as possible with necessary protection against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
From sanitation efforts to saniTENTS, hospital donations to mobile kitchens — public and private sectors pitched in and showed true bayanihan spirit. Citizens also tried their best to cooperate no matter how difficult it has been to adjust to the so-called “new normal.”
Three weeks into the quarantine, which was “enhanced” in the second week to cover Luzon, several issues cropped up, as expected in such unprecedented circumstances.
Among the first hurdles was keeping citizens in their homes. Quarantine rules were initially broken because workers went out to try to ply their trade. Soon, this gave rise to complaints that local leaders seemed remiss in their duty to ensure each family was receiving food, and even quarantine passes!
“Everyone should receive aid, no exemptions,” Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said this week.
Even President Rodrigo Duterte gave a stern warning during his public address Monday night.
The Chief Executive announced that his administration has allotted a total of P200 billion in assistance to poor Filipino families to help them fight the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said if he discovered some shenanigans from local officials, he would make sure they would be locked up.
That he had to remind people of this is a little sad, of course, but it is widely believed that calamities are big cash cows for unscrupulous leaders who end up pocketing funds that should have gone into aid for victims and rehabilitation. Sometimes, they shave off more from funds by approving low-quality materials at extreme costs, literally and figuratively.
This early, inefficiency in barangays had already been reported. People are going hungry because local governments have been unable to cover their whole constituency. It has gotten so bad that minor riots have transpired in some barangays in Quezon City. If it weren’t for the Filipino culture of bayanihan, many would be starving now because some barangays are so strict in imposing the quarantine rules, but have not been able to provide food aid for all residents.
In time it shall be revealed which barangay works and who is just there for the money and power.
Malacañang has issued its warning: “Give aid to all or else…”
Now is not the time for abuse and self-promotion.
“Just like the President then, there should be no politics in giving aid and assistance to the public,” Panelo added in his statement.
Huge funding has been allotted by national government to local government units for aid to the poor sector of society. Each family is supposedly covered by the cash aid in the next two months. The Department of Labor and Employment is also giving aid to displaced workers. Other government agencies and government-owned and -controlled corporations have stepped in to help fund the drive against COVID-19.
Of course, these are immediate solutions tapped by government to address the various aspects covered by the pandemic of a deadly virus that waits for no one. Some lawmakers have raised questions for the longer term, such as will the country have enough funds to sustain our survival in light of the unpredictable time frame of COVID-19? How far can the national funds go to cover all needs, including the most basic ones like food and health care?
Knowing how dangerous and uncertain these times are, erring and greedy officials should be meted with more than suspension and detention — they deserve no less than COVID-19 and no help coming to them.