OPINION AND OPTION
By ELINANDO B. CINCO
If an applause counter were used to measure the thunderous cheering from an excited public midnight last Sunday — the eve of what media calls”freedom day” — the machine would have measured a virtual 10-megatone ovation.
Ninety-five percent of Filipinos have been heaving a collective sigh of relief since last weekend when asked at random by radio and TV reporters what their opinion was about the start of the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) in Metro Manila and some places in the country.
It was not surprising. They had been forced into quarantine for 77 days, from March 16 to May 31.
Authorities may appear bitter reading the reaction of the public. But the people’s reaction should be taken as a sign of freedom from a mandatory lockout. Nothing like this had happened to them before. The Marcos martial law years had only four hours of curfew restriction on the people, from 12:00 midnight to 4:00 a.m.
President Duterte, after a meeting with officials of the IATF in Malacanang, announced the placing of Metro Manila under the GCQ on June 1.
With it came some lenient rules in public transport, additional passengers in private vehicles, more business establishments opened, more employees allowed to resume work, and customers doing business.
But a word of caution: People are urged to continue practicing the wearing of face masks, physical distancing of no less than one meter the maintaining of vigorous personal hygiene such as hand-washing with soap and water, ethyl alcohol or a disinfectant.
No doubt, it is a welcome move. But concern has been expressed by some who think more time is needed to contain the coronavirus.
But to the economists in the Cabinet and IATF extending the lockout for another fortnight is tantamount to driving another nail on the business coffin. “We can no longer afford to watch helplessly the cascading revenues missed by the private sector and the taxes due the government,” they said.
* * *
Three administration officials were chided by observers last week. Secretary Duque, asked for an update on the coronavirus pandemic, said the country is now on “a second wave” of the pandemic. Epidemiologist Dr. Benjie Ko, a specialist in infectious diseases, doubted the former’s observation.
Joint task force commander Gen. Guillermo Eleazar took pride in announcing a fall in criminal activities – 61 percent in Metro Manila and 67 percent in the provinces – in the past 11 lockout and curfew weeks, and credited it to the quarantine restrictions.
Many in media disagreed with the police general. They said it has always been the contention of criminologists that hunger and poverty are the main causes of crime. Many in the marginalized sector of society are in those conditions. And filling their stomachs – whether or not there are lockdowns or curfews – is a life-and-death goal.
MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia offered a silly idea that the reason husband-and-wife motorcycle tandem was disapproved was it was frequently abused by riders who claimed the backrider was his spouse. Oftentimes, she turned out to be a girlfriend. Garcia should know this is more of an exception rather than a common reality.
* * *
The following short anecdote needs further verification. An elderly American woman patient in a Texas hospital reportedly complained to the institution’s medical director to discipline two Filipino lady nurses. Her reason was that she overheard them talking beside her bed this way: “She’s gonna die.”
No basis for the complaint. The nurses who were Cebuano-speaking, actually said to the other in their dialect – “Sige na , ‘day.”