Now is not the time for politics and politicking. We are experiencing an unprecedented crisis, the likes of which have never been seen before. All talks of politics in this emergency situation is not only unproductive and detrimental to our efforts, but also frankly useless. For one, we are not certain if we can even reach this point in time next year. We are not even certain that there is still politics to talk about if we cannot surpass this crisis.
What we need to do now is help each other overcome COVID-19. Everyone is welcome to help, even to criticize, as long as you have useful recommendations to suggest. We are talking about our nation’s survival after all, so it would not matter whether you are rich or poor, whether you lean towards the opposition or the administration. We are all in this together.
With the passing of the Bayanihan Heal as One Act on 23 March, we now have a strong and potent weapon to combat the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. Through this law, over P275 billion worth of budget has been realigned, reallocated and reprogrammed to address the economic and social strife the country is facing amid this crisis.
Numerous measures were indicated in the act in order to immediately provide relief efforts to all Filipinos, give assistance to those who need it the most and address the most affected sectors of the country. These include our frontliners, health workers, displaced and informal workers, the vulnerable part of the society.
I now urge the different national agencies to immediately hand over the much-needed assistance to our Filipino brothers and sisters. Let us perfect the distribution system on this first month of enhanced community quarantine since we still do not know how long this crisis will last. We in government do not want to hear complaints from our fellow Filipinos, not during this time when they need their government the most. We have to be able to deliver what they truly need.
This assistance prioritizes those at the bottom, the poorest, most vulnerable and the displaced. It trickles up as the government prepares assistance to SME (small- and medium-sized enterprises) as well. It is thus my hope that those on top — the rich and the big businesses — will continue to meet us halfway by keeping on augmenting the aid coming from government as well as by taking care of their communities and employees.
And while the government is constantly pursuing its mandate to provide aid and curb the outbreak in the country, I have also been closely monitoring the situation while providing necessary assistance to hospitals, our frontliners and Filipinos, in general.
As the Senate chairman of the Committee on Health and Demography, I have been coordinating with the Department of Health on the status of health facilities and laboratories in the country. I have facilitated donation drives from various private donors so that our frontliners will not fall short on equipment and protective gear. In fact, we have sent assistance in the form of personal protective equipment (PPE) and others to the farthest of places in the country. From Aparri to Jolo.
But while this outbreak continues to test our abilities to handle such crisis as citizens and public officials, it also tests our abilities as humans and reveals our true character.
Numerous false information have been spreading like wildfire on social media since last week. The latest incident of fake news circulating on social media was the hospital raid of PPE inside a private hospital in Metro Manila. The other issue included my name labelled on each box of donation from a private donor.
There is no truth to these malicious propaganda being hurled against me. The private hospital strongly denounced the false information and clarified that the hospital raid never happened. Also, I do not have control over the labels that private donors will put on their boxes. In the future, if there are donations, do not put my name on them. It is unnecessary. It does not matter who it came from, what matters is they reach those who need help the most. After all things have been said and done, recognition must go to each and every Filipino who helped ensure the survival of our country.
As a government official, this is my job. As an elected senator, this is my mandate. I do not need recognition. I do not need acknowledgment. In fact, if you have been to my office at the Senate, you will not see any honorifics on my name plate like “senator” or “honorable” because I find it personally distasteful. What I am here for is service. As I always say: “Bisyo ko ang magserbisyo (To serve is my vice).”
In this global health pandemic due to COVID-19, no one is immune. We have to keep this in mind that in order for us to successfully control the spread and eliminate the virus in the country. We all need to help each other, cooperate and follow the guidelines and protocol set by the government and by the World Health Organization, so we could go back to our normal lives at the soonest possible time.
Last week, the President went on national television to call for unity. I am now echoing the same call. This is not the time for political bickering. I can fend off every issue that will come my way but to see our people suffer because of this is unacceptable. This is a fight for survival where each Filipino must play a part to defeat an invisible deadly enemy.
Let us set aside politics for the greater good. The government cannot do this alone. Those that my office helped are private hospitals in far-flung areas where government cannot easily reach. So, let us help the government plug the gaps. Instead of destroying one another, we should just call for bayanihan.
Let us all remember that we only have one enemy and it is COVID-19. All of humanity is stripped off of age, social class, gender and most importantly, political views. The virus puts us all in the same level of life threat.
I hope we all recognize and understand this. Let us all go forward.