By FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JEJOMAR C. BINAY
The past few days have been difficult for everyone.
Routines have been disrupted, most basic necessities are scarce, and some areas have been placed on total isolation. Deaths and infections caused by the COVID-19 disease continue to rise, and among the fatalities are doctors who serve at the front lines of our battle to stop this disease from further spreading. They are the heroes of this crisis.
There is fear unspoken, especially among the poor who now find it extremely difficult to cope with the restrictions on movement. Before the lockdown, they earned barely enough or just enough to put food on their tables. But that has stopped. They have no choice but rely on government for aid but the aid is coming in trickles, or in most cases, is non-existent. As in all calamities – and we are surely in the midst of one – government agencies should have stockpiled relief goods for distribution to the truly needy. But some local governments, displaying lack of foresight, have only recently started purchasing and distributing relief goods. Meanwhile, the ranks of the poor and hungry are growing. We would expect the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to have a stockpile of basic goods and necessities on hand, but it has not extended relief to beleaguered communities.
A full week of the lockdown has already passed.
Government has issued assurances that basic needs are available, but that is not evident in the near empty shelves of most supermarkets and groceries. Several local governments have started delivering groceries and medicines door-to-door. However, they have been told on national television to “stand down” and let the national government take the lead. The national government’s capability to provide the needs of Metro Manila’s estimated 14-million population is being questioned by observers, as it cannot even manage to draw up clear guidelines and enforce the rules effectively.
These are times that indeed test one’s faith. This has prompted the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to ask the Catholic faithful to be more prayerful and show compassion for the afflicted and the needy.
For Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, applying a First World response like a quarantine to a Third World country like ours further oppresses the poor.
As Bishop David notes: “First World countries can easily declare ‘lockdowns’ and ‘community quarantines’ because they presuppose that their citizens have decent, relatively spacious homes with bedrooms where they can self-quarantine themselves and maintain ‘social distancing.’”
He adds: “In First World countries, their governments can declare paid no-work days because they presuppose that most of their citizens are employed. The unemployed and people with disabilities receive welfare subsidies. The retired ones receive their pensions. In short, even if they stop working they are assured that they will not go hungry.”
In these uncertain times, we indeed turn to prayer to provide us even a glimmer of hope. All parishes now ring their church bells twice a day, at noon and at 8 p.m. The faithful have been told to pray the Oratio Imperata against COVID-19.
Below is the full text of the Oratio Imperata:
God our Father,
We come to you in our need
To ask your protection against the 2019 N-Corona Virus,
That has claimed lives
And has affected many.
We pray for your grace
For the people tasked with studying the nature and cause
Of this virus and its disease
And of stemming the tide of its transmission.
Guide the hands and minds of medical experts
That they may minister to the sick
With competence and compassion,
And of those governments and private agencies
That must find cure and solution to this epidemic.
We pray for those afflicted.
May they be restored to health soon.
Grant us the grace
To work for the good of all
And to help those in need.
Grant this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
God forever and ever. Amen.
Mary Help of all Christians, pray for us.
St. Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
St. Rock, pray for us.
St. Lorenzo Ruiz, pray for us.
St. Pedro Calungsod, pray for us.
Let us pray and trust in the Lord.