The Philippines is not a nation of people who take the initiative to do the right thing. We are talking here of the land of the jeepney and a society where concrete barriers and armies of “traffic enforcers” are required to keep motorists in line. This is a country where rubbish and sewage are routinely dumped into waterways and rainwater channels. A nation where you cannot leave a bicycle parked on a street unlocked and expect to see it still there when you get back. A society of people who have no concept of queueing and are unable to grasp any sort of “honour system”. A society where the the middle class and up feel the need to build their homes within fortified gated enclaves. A land where heavily-armed private security guards stand at the entrance of most business establishments.
How else can one expect to enforce quarantine rules to stem the spread of COVID-19 in a society such as this?
Filipinos like blaming whoever is in power for their nation’s ills never mind that the Philippines has long been a ticking time bomb — always just one small natural disaster away from some sort of catastrophic failure. The biggest of these bombs is its enormous population — a pile of humanity the numbers of which far outstrip any collective ability to take care of its own lot without outside assistance. The fact is, what the Philippines is today and how its government is managing (or not managing) its response to the pandemic is the result of more than half a century of mismanagement since independence was granted to her by the United States in 1946.
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I define poverty as a habitual entering into commitments one is inherently incapable of honouring. The Philippines was never in any position to handle a pandemic of the scale we are seeing today. Even in normal times, a lack of access to decent quality affordable medical and health care is a sad fact of life in the Philippines. The ratio of hospital beds to Filipinos is comparable more to a sub-Saharan African country than an East Asian or even Southeast Asian one. And even then, Philippine hospitals are renowned for turning away patients perceived to be unable to pay their bills.
There’s just too many Filipinos and Filipinos are just too undisciplined. You hear every Opposition partisan and her dog screeching about rising numbers of cases but it is hard to find any genuineness in these expressions of “concern” for public wellbeing seeing that much of this noise point to nothing beyond poorly-veiled political and “revolutionary” agendas. A lot of the noisy lament of the Opposition, in fact, routinely insult Filipinos’ modern sensibilities by suggesting that their fortunes and health are in the hands of a sitting president.
The fact that the Philippines is a free and democratic society routinely flies above the heads of Opposition partisans. Freedom demands just one thing of its adherents — personal accountability. In a crisis, one does not just sit around mouth agape looking to the sky for a president to save one’s hide. It has long been recognised that Filipinos are an ungovernable lot. As such, one would expect more use of force to manage a crisis centrally or, as longstanding structures in Philippine society already exhibit more organised action at more local levels. Kanya-kanya, in the vernacular.
Look no further than last year or ten years ago. This has always been the normal. Chi chi Filipinos routinely drive by street children and their families living and dying on Manila’s streets without much of a flinch. How different is a COVID-19 cluster in a teeming squatter colony to the average village kids tooling around town in her air-conditioned car? If apathy towards street kids breathing in diesel fumes had always been normal in the Philippines why is it suddenly an outrage to be seeing poor people being ravaged by a pandemic most governments in the world can only begin to understand? Why does the earlier, a relatively solvable problem, not spark outrage and the latter, one that vexes the best of humanity, elicit so much pointless noise?
This is why problems are never solved in the Philippines. A nation of hypocrites will never come together to work towards common goals. The blanket hypocrisy of the society just gets in the way. There is a deeper truth to why COVID-19 will simply continue to burn through the Philippines unhindered or, at least, until Mother Nature decides “enough!”. The Philippines is incapable of taking care of itself even in the best of times. These days are amongst the worst of humanity’s days. What would Filipinos do? Neither Rodrigo Duterte nor Leni Robredo knows the answer to that question.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.