Heroes sleep on sidewalks

Published June 7, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin



Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal
Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal

Today I was supposed to write about the importance of EDUCATION in the path to a cycling culture in the Philippines.  It was part of the I.C.E.E. discussion.  However, that has to wait.  If you read the news last week, it was very frustrating to see how things are unfolding in the Philippines.  This included the inability to prepare for the transition to a General Community Quarantine from the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine and the seeming lack of care for our Overseas Filipino Workers when they arrived in Manila, on the way to their respective provinces.

In the quarantine restrictions on the movement of residents of Metro Manila and other provinces were imposed for 77 days.  For weeks, EDSA was almost empty, except for a few vehicles.  Most residents of Metro Manila were stuck at home, in order to slow down the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and help the healthcare system in the Metro cope with caring for the infected who needed medical attention.

So, there was over two months to get ready for the businesses to slowly open up.  Two months for transportation officials to get ready.  To make sure that when the businesses would open up, workers could report to work.  A week before the lifting of the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine, the DOTr presented grandiose plans to make sure workers could commute to and from work.  This included bicycle lanes on the roads.  However, even before June 1, there were already inconsistencies with the statements of the DOTr and some MMDA officials.  It’s as if they could not simply pick up their phone and call the other official to talk to, so the things they say about plans and implementation of programs would be in sync.

Jeepneys and buses were prohibited from plying their route, the reason given was to promote physical distancing.  This despite some transport companies and organizations showing innovations in their vehicles to put barriers between seats.  However, for a number of days, we saw commuters riding flatbeds trucks and other vehicles, without proper seats, all squeezed beside each other.  The purpose for not allowing buses and jeepneys, all but negated.

Make plans that foresee their real and tangible impact on the public. Imagine the difficult realities that our commuting public faces every single day that they need to report for work. You need policy makers, planners, and implementors with their feet firmly planted on the ground.

A good thing is, last week, some businesses opted to delay their opening, waiting for things to settle.  This contributed to fewer people on the road.  You can just imagine how much more chaotic it would have been if more businesses allowed to resume operations had decided to open up last week.

Another story which was on the news last week were pictures of OFWs sleeping at the sidewalk of NAIA Terminal 2.  It was shocking to see them, just sleeping on the cold pavement.  Dogs sleep in better conditions. Pictures showed returning Overseas Filipino Workers sleeping side by side on the pavement.  Without pillows, mats, blankets, with some using their luggage as makeshift pillows.  Some just using carboard boxes.  People sleeping side by side, without any physical distancing.  Is THIS how we treat our “Modern Day Heroes”?  Is this how we treat Filipinos who sacrificed so much by leaving behind their families to work abroad to earn?  Is this how we treat the SAME OFWs who are responsible for keeping our economy afloat for decades?

The work done by the Department of Foreign Affairs was exemplary.  Finding ways to get thousands of Filipinos home despite the numerous challenges.  However, when the returning OFWs arrived in Manila, it seems the stay of the OFWs in Manila looks like the Bermuda Triangle for them. It’s as if they simply disappear for a certain period of time. They seem to be forgotten, but they and their families continue to suffer, and continue to be unaware on what to do while in limbo, with countless being quarantined for over a month.  Why are they disrespected so much when they arrive in Manila? They’re not slabs of meat you just throw into the freezer and forget about. But that’s how it appears they’re being treated… That’s WRONG.

Fellow Filipinos, and in this case, returning OFWs, should be helped.  It’s pitiful what’s happening to them.  One OFW already committed suicide while in quarantine.  Their families continue to wait for them, uncertain when they’ll really be able to fly home to the province.  How many years have they helped the economy by sending remittances which prop up our economy?  Yet now, they’re being discarded?  Why?

What makes it even worse is that the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration announced last week that they had run out of swab kits for returning OFWs. So, what are OFWs who arrive supposed to do?  Isn’t it basic in supply and logistics planning that you have to include contingencies?  There’s enough budget for it, that’s for sure.  So why?

Added to this was the rules issued by the Bureau of Quarantine under the Department of Health.  Under the “14-Day Quarantine House Rule,” specifically No. 6, it says, “Media interview and positing in Social Media is not allowed.  Electronic gadgets and cellphones of those who violate this will be confiscated and will be returned after the quarantine period.”  They’re not only NOT taken care of, they’re prohibited from complaining about it.

Is this how you show love for the new heroes?  Where is the care for fellow Filipinos?  What is the government doing to take care of our fellow Filipinos? The priorities are wrong.  It would be better if the government focuses on what’s really important.