At this critical time when all Filipinos should be united in fighting the real enemy — the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic that is killing thousands of people worldwide each day — now comes a call from a noisy few for the ouster of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Not that this “oust Duterte” tomfoolery would amount to anything, but a power vacuum or even transitioning from one government to another would see our country descend into utter chaos and anarchy and to thousands of our countrymen dying each day from this virus.
I kid you not. Each day that I will myself to leave the relative safety of our home to work the field as a journalist, like dashing to the airport at night past checkpoints to cover that horrific fireball which killed all eight people aboard a med-evac flight, I sense from our frontliners a palpable fear.
This from the nurses who walk to and from the hospitals if they miss the government-provided service vehicles, from the soldiers and policemen who endure sweltering heat at day and mosquitoes during cold nights at the barricades, and even from those in the barangays who expose themselves to COVID-19 to deliver relief goods.
Indeed, there is a clear realization from our frontliners how fragile life is and how they, along with the people they serve and the family members they love so dearly, can be alive today and be dead tomorrow, cremated within minutes of their last breath, without the benefit of final goodbyes.
As I look into the eyes of our frontliners, like the visibly tired but still smiling doctors from the Philippine General Hospital and the Lung Center of the Philippines on whose cars I helped load donated personal protection equipment, I see uncertainty and fleeting moments of doubt.
I also see the indomitable human spirit very much alive and unbowed. I see the resolve and resiliency which, I know, have tided humanity over centuries of similar or even worse population-decimating cataclysmic events like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, plagues, famines and wars.
This is why we do the things we do; this is why we go out in the open; this is why the housewives endure long lines at the market — to ensure that goods and services and life itself go on, to make certain that the mouths to feed stay fed, whether from rations or from the coming P100 billion allocated by the government for that very purpose.
This is why the millions of Filipinos will endure and will put up a brave face to this phantom menace — the unseen, the name COVID-19 that will forever be a blight in our history, something whose recall would elicit shudder about pandemics yet to come.
We, the people, know that with these sacrifices, we are giving ourselves a fighting chance to celebrate Christmas 2020 and to talk about the COVID-19 that was, with so much respect and fond memories of the people whose lives it claimed, especially the heroes of this epic coronavirus battle. Happiness would be sitting around a sumptuous Noche Buena table months from now, knowing that we survived COVID-19.
Everywhere around the world, in Italy and Spain and New York, and in Filipino homes that have lost fathers and mothers, including the husband-and-wife doctors who paid the ultimate Hippocratic price, of sons and daughters gone forever — there would be “empty chairs at empty tables,” of a “grief that can’t be spoken,” of a “pain that goes on and on.”
Has it come to this? Of America, the most powerful nation in the world, hauling off truckloads of its dead using forklifts to heave them aboard, of corpses shrouded only in the white hospital bedsheet on which they died?
Yes, it has, to the point that United States President Donald Trump and his fierce political enemy, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have seemingly lost the appetite, at least at the moment, to cross swords, knowing that politics and pandemics should never mix — never, never ever.
Back here at home, politics must also take the back seat as we must present a common front against COVID-19, calling out our leaders for the missteps they take but only so they can be remedied — not to bash or to wish them to fail because their victory is our victory, their failure our defeat.
We are in the fight of our lives, we are at a crossroads, we cannot let fear get the better of us and fuel another form of pandemic, man-made, that of having an irrational desire to claw and bite and to bash one another just because, seeing red or yellow or blue, it is easy to do so using our smartphones.
The measure of our being rational beings is not the words that come out from our mouths or the words that we spew on social media with wild abandon. Our true yardstick is how we differentiate ourselves from the wild animals by acting as sentient beings, made in the image of a loving Creator.
Let’s not lose our humanity. Let us not be reprobates for the real enemy is not he who is across the palace by the Pasig River. The real enemy is COVID-19, the opportunists and instigators who have been salivating for power but who cannot claim there’s a cause célèbre akin to Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.
The bigger enemy would prove to be ourselves, if we do not slap ourselves silly from thinking now is the time for blame-laying and for politics. This holds true for both sides of the political fence.
There’s a time for everything. Let the crooked be made accountable and let the corrupt roast. But first things first. Okay, you want to oust Duterte? Try, but not now. Allow him to use his balls first to tide us through.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) wants to make Vico Sotto accountable for real or imagined transgressions? Vice President Leni Robredo, too? Sure, but their summons can wait. In the meantime, the NBI can make better use of its resources to fight the virus.
For now, our focus should only be on our very survival as a species. That done, everyone’s fair game and we can even reopen the political circus of scoundrels.