How many times have we heard or read this statement during the course of this pandemic? On social media, every scroll up shows an irate friend screaming all caps how this government has failed with its COVID-19 plan, or the lack of it. It has gotten so bad that our Facebook newsfeeds have become a battle of narratives.
With the reimposition of Enhanced Community Quarantine measures last week, #DutertePalpak has trended yet again. People who never liked the guy since 2016 have found another reason to try to bring him and his government down. Unfortunately, with the increasing amount of frustration from failed policies, insensitive personalities, rising COVID-19 case numbers that are now hitting closer to home, and half-baked implementation of mere stop-gap solutions, the proverbial boiling point is just a few bubbles away.
But how did we get here? Was it just the lax implementation of lockdown rules since we reopened transportation and commerce ten months ago? Did the government lack in concocting and communicating minimum health protocols to slow down the spread of the virus? Should it have extended the first ECQ last year to the point that the cases were near zero?
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s traffic operations chief, Col. Edison “Bong” Nebrija went live on Facebook this past Monday as he and his team patrolled the intersection of EDSA and East Avenue in Quezon City. During the course of the video, the MMDA personnel were seen flagging down jeepneys that were fully loaded with passengers in defiance of the current ECQ’s mandated 50% capacity for public transportation.
When drivers were asked if they knew of the 50% rule, all begrudgingly said yes. And yet, they still ignored this directive and still loaded their jeepneys full like any other day. “May pandemya tayo,” Nebrija frustratingly exclaimed to both the drivers and their passengers. And yet it is still the government’s fault.
Along Commonwealth Avenue, buses continue to ignore health protocols even during this past week’s ECQ. No temperature checks, no observance of the one-seat apart rule, buses filled up beyond 50% capacity. All happening under the watch of MMDA personnel and captured on video by a news outfit’s crew. And yet it is still the government’s fault.
Twelve colorum vans were also caught transporting people from the NCR to different towns and locales in the Bicol region last week. And according to a press release from the Department of Transportation, 7 people apprehended from anti-colorum operations in the region from April 1 to 2 have been found to have been COVID-19 positive. People have been spreading the virus beyond the NCR+ borders despite the announced travel restrictions. And yet it is still the government’s fault.
This past week we have seen long lines of motorcycle riders shoulder to shoulder and cars bumper to bumper stopped at checkpoints waiting for their turn to pass. Some were off to work, others had no business leaving their houses. And yet it is still the government’s fault.
And just yesterday, a video shared on social media showed people alighting from a truck’s cargo hold in the middle of the night. People climbing down a closed cargo truck, not from a bus, much like humans being smuggled across the border in the Americas. And yet it is still the government’s fault.
Putting a halt to mobility is one of the surest ways to slow down the spread of the virus. Despite this fact, the government still allowed public transportation to operate 24/7 to address the need for transportation of essential workers during this second ECQ. To let drivers and operators earn something despite the lockdown. The transport operators and the people themselves still had the complacency to ignore minimum health protocols much to the authorities’ dismay.
The government is shooting itself in the foot by allowing all this to happen though. By maintaining avenues for the spread of the virus cases we will surely not see a drastic reduction of new infections in the span of these two weeks and the next few weeks after. At least not in the numbers public health care experts and the general populace would like to see.
We know there is an ongoing ECQ lockdown, yet we still venture out for leisure. We know the jeepneys and buses are already close to full, and yet we still take the ride anyway to avoid delay. We know we can only accommodate half the capacity of our buses and jeepneys, and yet we still stop for people to hop on so we can get extra income. We know we should not go beyond the borders of NCR+ and yet we still go out to visit family risking the spread of the virus to towns outside the lockdown areas.
And yet it is still the government’s fault.
We have read on our news feeds how COVID-19 is a hoax. How the government has been manipulating us into submission. How we are being denied access to miracle medicines peddled by some doctors and former COVID-19 patients who were cured by them. We have seen how our frustration over the lack of progress in our country’s COVID-19 response is being twisted as a one-off, a unique case that our country is suffering from because of the government’s incompetency, instead of a global reality that is affecting even developed nations we are supposed to look up to as shining examples of how the virus should be subdued.
Everyone and his uncle has an opinion. Some are based on facts, others on conjecture. And still some, are based on politically motivated propagation of misinformation and deceit. The problem with today’s generation is, we no longer get our information solely from responsible and verifiable sources. The other side of the double-edged sword.
The advent of social media and the ready access to Facebook, Google, and other online sources has made access to information easier. Unfortunately, it has also made access to misinformation, manipulation and deception that much easier too.
There was a time when journalism was a profession that adhered to ethics. Traditional journalism valued accuracy, pre-publication verification, balance, impartiality, and gate-keeping. Sadly most of these values have either been ignored, or unpracticed by people who publish stories on social media. And now that anyone with a social media account can create a story and have an army of paid trolls to proclaim this as fact further confuses more and more people.
Today’s social media is doing more to shape public opinion towards an agenda than traditional media ever has in the last few decades. That is why when many people say, “It is the government’s fault,” as to why COVID-19 has spread with such alarming numbers they often miss a crucial fact: we citizens are equally to blame.
If you have been diligent enough to read all the way to this point, congratulations. You are one of the few who actually value critical thinking. You open yourself to ideas beyond the bias of a headline and the first couple of sentences of an article. You are responsible enough to ferret out the truth from yet another opinion that may or may not conform to your own. And perhaps, after reading this dissertation, you might end up with a realization. That we are all in this together and the solution to this problem does not solely lie in the government’s hands, but also on our own.
Motoring and motorsports are two of Mikko’s greatest passions. Combining more than twenty years of professional automotive photography and videography experience with years of touring car racing competition, and a deep understanding of the car industry, from both the manufacturers’ and consumers’ points of view, have given him a unique and insightful perspective in the motoring beat.