Discipline, dystopia, and Duterte


Tonyo Cruz

Thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of Filipinos have died from coronavirus and from other causes since March. But most, if not all, relatives practically mourned remotely, privately, and rather quickly due to the strict quarantine rules. The more fortunate had the chance to virtually visit a wake, or watch a livestream of the burial or cremation of their loved ones.  

Neither have we, as a nation commiserating with their heartbroken families, found an opportunity to properly mourn and honor all the doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel who needlessly died in the frontlines. 

And then we see a parade of horrors:

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque this week went on a leisure trip to Ocean Adventure in Subic. From photos released by the amusement park, he didn’t wear a mask or a face shield. Worse, it was in flagrant violation of the quarantine rules prohibiting such leisure activities, and of the law on ethical conduct of officials.

Metro Manila’s police chief himself allowed a mananita to usher in his birthday, even as he is tasked to enforce a ban against any mass gathering.

The military chief wrote on official stationery to the ambassador of China to personally request for himself and his friends to be given a China-manufactured medicine unapproved by our own Food and Drug Administration. 

There have also been an endless mass gatherings by national officials, oftentimes with participants not wearing the required face masks or removing them to the detriment of others. Perhaps nowhere is this more obvious than in police operations curtailing constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties, and in checkpoints put in place all over the country.

The checkpoints themselves have escaped public, official, and medical scrutiny as  possibly hotbeds of infection. Hundreds of policemen have since been found coronavirus positive, and there’s no sense of urgency on the part of the police officials to disclose where they were assigned and for how long.

The House of Representatives tried vainly to pretend to be taking precautions against the spread of coronavirus. But we have seen in the hearings on ABS-CBN that they do not at all consciously and consistently practice physical distancing as members of Congress try their worst to shake down the country’s biggest broadcaster.

When the police arrested eight persons in UP Cebu in violation of the constitution and the UP-DND agreement  governing police operations in any part of UP, it was evident that the law enforcers were gathered en masse and didn’t wear adequate personal protective equipment.

The mobilization of hundreds of police or military personnel in so-called “hard lockdowns” in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu also flagrantly violate both the constitution and the quarantine rules themselves. The law enforcers not only violate the laws they supposedly enforce. But there is a huge possibility that their concentrated numbers at any time could be a cause for the spread of infection.

The same is true with the explosion of COVID-19 cases in our nation’s prisons, weeks or months after authorities started to stop allowing visitors. The infection could not possibly have started from within the prisons, and the only ones who have interaction outside the prisons are the prison guards and jail officials.

Neither are there steps taken by the National Bureau of Investigation and the higher authorities to hold Governor Gwen Garcia for spreading transparent misinformation and false claims regarding the prevention of coronavirus infection.

While the police are quick to arrest Pride protesters, they drag their feet in the case of Senator Koko Pimentel who himself admitted violating quarantine rules to visit a major hospital and a huge supermarket.

President Duterte put himself above the quarantine rules by flying from Manila to Davao to join his family amid a ban on domestic flights. It was an awesome privilege, which was denied many relatives who wanted to mourn loved ones who have died from COVID-19 and other causes. He cannot even keep a mask on his face, if only to drive home the point that no one is safe from the virus or no one is exempt from the quarantine rules.

The Duterte regime’s pernicious narrative of pinning the blame for the rise of coronavirus on an alleged “undisciplined citizenry” can only collapse under the weight of its own abject lack of discipline and blatant violations of the rules by the same officials who drafted them themselves.

The Grand Mananita protest of June 12 was thus a symbolic subversion of the “new normal.” By asserting their constitutional rights, the rallyists  put the regime on notice that it is no longer acceptable or believable to use the pandemic as an excuse to deny the people their lawful prerogatives. The rally correctly and bravely pointed at the regime’s incompetence, negligence, fascism, and corruption as the causes of the failure to curb the spread of COVID-19.

And before the month ended, it was the lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders who were the first to mount a protest at the foot of Mendiola Bridge. The LGBTs who many derisively and wrongly refer to as “weaklings” waved the rainbow flag to directly condemn and challenge the regime ensconced at the other end of the bridge. 

The re-convening of the Parliament of the Streets in UP and Mendiola, is thus refreshing amid the complicity and cowardice of many of our representatives and senators.

Malacanang has also been stopped from celebrating the passage of the terror bill, which the President certified as an urgent measure. The national outrage over the terror bill as expressed by people from all walks of life effectively put the regime on the defensive. Duterte knows he cannot sign it without igniting protests from an astonishingly broad, conscienticized, and committed coalition of freedom fighters who not only see through the dystopia but also seek to smash.