The Covid-19 pandemic has been around since March 2020. It is still threatening world health today, the availability of vaccines notwithstanding.
Last 29 March, Metropolitan Manila and the provinces of Rizal, Cavite, Bulacan and Laguna were back under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) like last year. As a consequence, a strict lockdown was enforced until 11 April 2021.
The lockdown meant non-essential travel is disallowed, and businesses which are not considered essential at the moment were not allowed to operate. To keep people off the streets as long as possible, a curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. complemented the lockdown.
Food security and availability are vital during these times when travel is restricted by public safety considerations. Thus, food delivery services were not covered by the lockdown restrictions.
Under that arrangement, people will be inclined to stay at home instead of going outdoors to buy food. That’s in line with the public interest because the less people there are outdoors, the less chances there will be for people to contract Covid-19.
Another benefit is that the marked increase in food delivery services provides employment for many Filipinos who were economically displaced by the restrictions arising from the nationwide quarantine.
From the onset, top officials of the national government led by presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, and those from the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) addressing the Covid-19 menace, clearly declared that food delivery services cannot be impeded during the lockdown, and are allowed during all hours of the day and night.
Unfortunately, some barangay personnel in Bulacan had their own untenable interpretation of the lockdown restrictions.
At past midnight last 31 March, sentries of Barangay Muzon in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan stopped a delivery man of a popular food delivery service provider from bringing a bowl of lugaw (rice porridge) to a customer residing inside the barangay who purchased the food item online from a nearby eatery.
A female barangay sentry stationed at the main entrance to the barangay insisted that under the ECQ in force in the province, the barangay cannot allow the food delivery to be consummated.
She also declared that the eatery concerned cannot engage in business during curfew hours, and that lugaw is not something essential enough to be exempted from quarantine restrictions.
To avoid trouble, the delivery man did not to engage the barangay sentries in an extended discussion, and left.
The incident was recorded on a mobile phone and downloaded on social media. It went viral, and was featured in the prime time television news.
From what can be ascertained from the recorded incident, the barangay sentry who refused to allow the delivery of the lugaw is either incompetent or drunk with power.
She is incompetent because Secretary Roque and the IATF had already made it clear to all and sundry that food deliveries can proceed unimpeded during all hours of the day and night during the lockdown. That statement is clear, simple and broad enough to cover curfew hours.
Doesn’t she know that the purpose of allowing food delivery services to operate 24/7 is to encourage the bulk of the population under quarantine to stay at home?
She is also drunk with power because she vested in herself the power to decide what type of food item is essential and what isn’t.
Moreover, what was the basis for this barangay sentry to arrive at her sweeping conclusion that lugaw is a non-essential food item?
Has it not occurred to her that there are many Filipinos whose sources of income have been adversely affected by the pandemic, and because of that, they need to economize and perhaps settle for the relatively inexpensive but satisfying lugaw?
Maybe this barangay sentry does not know how it feels to be hungry at midnight and unable to leave home because of travel restrictions.
This haughty, inconsiderate, power-drunk barangay sentry and those barangay personnel who were with her should face criminal raps under the anti-graft law for causing undue injury to the eatery, the food delivery firm, and the customer concerned, through their gross inexcusable negligence in not knowing that food delivery services are not covered by the lockdown restrictions.