Social distancing: Rebels with a cause

Why the Philippine government’s failure to understand their people results in poor adherence to social distancing.

By Jeremiah Capacillo

Photo by Niño Jesus Orbeta

In preparation for what seems to be the impending viral apocalypse, more and more countries are enacting stringent measures to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Philippines is no exception – although its 707 confirmed cases pale in comparison to the thousands in other hard-hit nations, the government is gearing up for battle.

On March 12, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the country’s capital region of Metro Manila under community quarantine. By March 16, he took it a step further and placed the entire island group of Luzon under “enhanced community quarantine,” which is effectively a total lockdown.

Under the quarantine period, daily life in the Metro region has been disrupted. With all mass gatherings prohibited, Luzon citizens are forced to stay at home. In fact, police have issued each household a sole quarantine pass, a hall pass of sorts only to be used for “essential movements” like purchasing food and medicines. Until April 15, work-from-home-arrangements are encouraged, classes are suspended and all forms of travel are heavily restricted.

Additionally, all public transit operations have been suspended for the duration of the lockdown. Given this, plus the multiple military-manned checkpoints surrounding Metro Manila’s borders, the government’s directive to Filipinos couldn’t be any clearer: Stay home.

The princes, the paupers and the plague

Despite all this, the streets of Metro Manila were crowded with people on March 16, the second day of quarantine. ABS-CBN News reports that streets were jam-packed with commuters on their way to work, flouting the recommended social distance of staying at least six feet (1.8 meters) apart from each other. Although work-at-home schemes in the private sector are encouraged, not everyone can afford that privilege.

In a country where around three million families live below the poverty line, every paycheck counts. For many in Metro Manila, the prospect of dying from hunger is just as real as the prospect of death through contracting the coronavirus. Hence, they will make the effort to show up at work on time, even if that means disobeying government-issued orders.

In an interview with news show TV Patrol, a taxi driver was in tears as he explained the dilemma he and several other blue-collar workers face under the quarantine period.

“It’s hard when you’re poor. You have no source of income even when you need to buy food,” he said in Tagalog.

It’s easy to dismiss workers who defy quarantine and head out in public as selfish and stubborn. But the COVID-19 pandemic brings up a class issue: As the wealthy stay home and complain about being bored, the working class quite literally risks their lives in order to feed their families. In the time of the coronavirus, to stay protected at home is a privilege.

Governing from a distance

It seems like the government’s failure to effectively enforce social distancing measures lies in its inability to understand the needs of its constituents. The guidelines under Luzon’s community quarantine are composed of mandates and have little to no provisions for relief for those in aid, or even for government-sponsored mass testing.

The fact of the matter is, people are scared. For the next few weeks or even months, they risk losing any source of income and even running out of food and supplies. Sadly, the government is doing little to acknowledge and assuage these fears – instead, their first instinct is to mandate a list of restrictions and directives that they believe people will immediately acquiesce to without question. There is no meeting halfway here at all.

In an address given at the evening of March 24, President Rodrigo Duterte urged the public to stay brave in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and reassured them that the government is doing all it can in service of the Filipino people. Perhaps he and his colleagues need to learn that a bottoms-up approach and a willingness to listen to the masses might be the keys to truly serving and protecting the Filipinos.

(Jeremiah Capacillo is an Investvine contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)



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Why the Philippine government’s failure to understand their people results in poor adherence to social distancing. By Jeremiah Capacillo Photo by Niño Jesus Orbeta In preparation for what seems to be the impending viral apocalypse, more and more countries are enacting stringent measures to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Philippines is no exception – although its 707 confirmed cases pale in comparison to the thousands in other hard-hit nations, the government is gearing up for battle. On March 12, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the country’s capital region of Metro Manila under community quarantine. By March 16, he...

Why the Philippine government’s failure to understand their people results in poor adherence to social distancing.

By Jeremiah Capacillo

Photo by Niño Jesus Orbeta

In preparation for what seems to be the impending viral apocalypse, more and more countries are enacting stringent measures to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Philippines is no exception – although its 707 confirmed cases pale in comparison to the thousands in other hard-hit nations, the government is gearing up for battle.

On March 12, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the country’s capital region of Metro Manila under community quarantine. By March 16, he took it a step further and placed the entire island group of Luzon under “enhanced community quarantine,” which is effectively a total lockdown.

Under the quarantine period, daily life in the Metro region has been disrupted. With all mass gatherings prohibited, Luzon citizens are forced to stay at home. In fact, police have issued each household a sole quarantine pass, a hall pass of sorts only to be used for “essential movements” like purchasing food and medicines. Until April 15, work-from-home-arrangements are encouraged, classes are suspended and all forms of travel are heavily restricted.

Additionally, all public transit operations have been suspended for the duration of the lockdown. Given this, plus the multiple military-manned checkpoints surrounding Metro Manila’s borders, the government’s directive to Filipinos couldn’t be any clearer: Stay home.

The princes, the paupers and the plague

Despite all this, the streets of Metro Manila were crowded with people on March 16, the second day of quarantine. ABS-CBN News reports that streets were jam-packed with commuters on their way to work, flouting the recommended social distance of staying at least six feet (1.8 meters) apart from each other. Although work-at-home schemes in the private sector are encouraged, not everyone can afford that privilege.

In a country where around three million families live below the poverty line, every paycheck counts. For many in Metro Manila, the prospect of dying from hunger is just as real as the prospect of death through contracting the coronavirus. Hence, they will make the effort to show up at work on time, even if that means disobeying government-issued orders.

In an interview with news show TV Patrol, a taxi driver was in tears as he explained the dilemma he and several other blue-collar workers face under the quarantine period.

“It’s hard when you’re poor. You have no source of income even when you need to buy food,” he said in Tagalog.

It’s easy to dismiss workers who defy quarantine and head out in public as selfish and stubborn. But the COVID-19 pandemic brings up a class issue: As the wealthy stay home and complain about being bored, the working class quite literally risks their lives in order to feed their families. In the time of the coronavirus, to stay protected at home is a privilege.

Governing from a distance

It seems like the government’s failure to effectively enforce social distancing measures lies in its inability to understand the needs of its constituents. The guidelines under Luzon’s community quarantine are composed of mandates and have little to no provisions for relief for those in aid, or even for government-sponsored mass testing.

The fact of the matter is, people are scared. For the next few weeks or even months, they risk losing any source of income and even running out of food and supplies. Sadly, the government is doing little to acknowledge and assuage these fears – instead, their first instinct is to mandate a list of restrictions and directives that they believe people will immediately acquiesce to without question. There is no meeting halfway here at all.

In an address given at the evening of March 24, President Rodrigo Duterte urged the public to stay brave in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and reassured them that the government is doing all it can in service of the Filipino people. Perhaps he and his colleagues need to learn that a bottoms-up approach and a willingness to listen to the masses might be the keys to truly serving and protecting the Filipinos.

(Jeremiah Capacillo is an Investvine contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)



Support ASEAN news

Investvine has been a consistent voice in ASEAN news for more than a decade. From breaking news to exclusive interviews with key ASEAN leaders, we have brought you factual and engaging reports – the stories that matter, free of charge.

Like many news organisations, we are striving to survive in an age of reduced advertising and biased journalism. Our mission is to rise above today’s challenges and chart tomorrow’s world with clear, dependable reporting.

Support us now with a donation of your choosing. Your contribution will help us shine a light on important ASEAN stories, reach more people and lift the manifold voices of this dynamic, influential region.

$
Personal Info

Donation Total: $10.00

 

 

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