THE LEGAL FRONT
By JUSTICE ART D. BRION (RET.)
COVID-19 reports – whether local or foreign – have so far been largely gloomy: continuously increasing incidence of infection and deaths, with no definite end in sight; and forecasts of coming economic miseries resulting from the pandemic. Even countries that have shown some successes in taming COVID-19 are not sure that recurrence would not take place.
These gloomy reports – COVID-19’s yin – are fortunately balanced by COVID-19’s own yang – the beneficial effects that the anti-COVID-19 measures of quarantine and discipline require. They are beneficial because they are the ideal conditions that man had long wished he could attain but could not, until COVID-19 and the enforced quarantine came.
Once COVID-19 is effectively held in check, can mankind at least hope to retain these yangs as lessons from what it has endured?
With man’s careless and irresponsible pre-COVID-19 ways, the reply would almost certainly be in the negative.
But after experiencing COVID-19’s deaths and difficulties, man might have perhaps learned and would now be responsible, careful, and thoughtful in his personal ways and in his relationships with his community, with the environment, and with the world.
For mankind’s sake, I hope these yangs can be the “new normals” in our post-COVID-19 world.
- One of the yangs that COVID-19 might hopefully leave behind is the enhanced personal hygiene and cleanliness that mankind observed in battling COVID-19. The seemingly minor practice of washing one’s hands and keeping one’s self clean is a discipline that – if maintained – can hopefully lead us to other hygienic measures. Personal cleanliness, a personal choice, is the basic building block towards better home and community sanitation, especially in the proper handling and disposal of waste and waste materials.
Our clean streets and the clean rivers during the enforced COVID-19 lockdown have been welcome sights. For once, we began to experience reduced air pollution after the volume of vehicular traffic decreased. Even the waters of Venice’s canals became crystal clear; waste disposal improved in Italy and elsewhere, driven by fear of COVID-19.
- Would the breathable air and uncongested roads in our usually busy roads prompt us in the future to give thought to effective vehicular traffic management and to disciplined compliance by road users?
Decongestion and cleaner air would not be too difficult to attain if only we would have the will and the discipline to manage our traffic and rationalize the use of our vehicles.
Beyond vehicular traffic, will the improved air pollution readings of our cities and the clearer skies under COVID-19 prompt us to use air-friendly industrial processes and devices to improve our earth’s own health?
- Employment necessarily suffered under the lockdown that anti-COVID-19 measures required. Gainful work, though, cannot completely be halted despite the COVID-19 threats: society has to function, however minimally, to support daily community life; workers have to work to support their families and cannot simply look up to government for continuing support.
These conditions compelled us to resort to work-at-home arrangements to keep work and productivity flowing. In our desperation, we applied these arrangements, not only to tasks traditionally done at home by homeworkers, but to all tasks that can reasonably be undertaken at home under a system of monitoring and office-to-home communications. These arrangements have in fact benefited everyone.
Aside from savings in time and expenses, these arrangements allowed employees greater focus on productive work and more family time. Employers, for their part, generally experienced lesser absenteeism, enhanced productivity and work performance, and the availability of a wider and more talented pool of available workers. Society itself enjoyed urban decongestion and the blessings that lesser external activity brings.
Should we not consider continued work-at-home arrangements to the extent that we can do so after we have defeated COVID-19?
- As a I discussed in my last column, even education can benefit from the use of virtual classrooms, i.e., remotely conducted classroom interactions between teachers and students through Internet and computer application programs.
We have already used this teaching mode to respond to the COVID-19 lockdown and we should not thereafter stop exploring its full potentials despite the adjustments that this new teaching mode requires.
Consider that with this instructional medium, we might achieve education at lesser costs for everyone; wider educational coverage for a greater number of students; and as reserve measures for supplemental classes or instructional mediums, when and if needed.
- Unappreciated in our COVID-19 battle is the people’s greater observance and silent recognition of the rule of law, a response that significantly contributed to our anti-COVID-19 measures. We should now highlight this salutary development to impress on people the significance of what they can achieve through the rule of law.
Either out of habitual obedience to or respect for the law and its rules, or out of fear for the consequences of disobedience, it is indisputable that people largely complied with the measures the government imposed.
Compliance, of course, has not been perfect; some people had other priorities while others chose to play the traditional political game despite the dire and deadly threat that COVID-19 posed.
To the government’s credit, it refused to be distracted in its focus and to be drawn into petty politics. Instead, it respected people’s guaranteed rights, but drew a firm policy line by enforcing the law and the required health measures.
At some point, everyone realized that COVID-19, in fact, is a situation of first impression for everyone, even for the government which initially addressed it without the benefit of past experience and training, and without a ready-made template for action.
The government saved itself from blame when it firmly and resolutely acted despite the novelty of the COVID-19 challenge; despite its cold and tentative start; and despite the background political noise. Thus, everyone eventually came to accept what had to be done; more importantly, order was maintained.
In due time, the community developed the sense that we are all one and in sync in addressing the emergency; only time is needed to vanquish the foe.
In these lights, a significant component of the fight against the pandemic has been the people’s respect for the duly constituted authorities and their commitment to the rule of law, coupled with the government’s own determined and purposive response to the COVID-19 challenge.
All these we should now recognize, hail, and internalize as they are part of the civic arsenal we need to fight our future battles, among them, COVID-19’s forecasted harsh economic fallout.