Questions for the ‘new normal’

Published July 10, 2020, 11:17 PM

by Tonyo Cruz


Tonyo Cruz

Public school teachers are launching a campaign for safe resumption of classes, and they raising a lot of questions that nobody in government has bothered to answer.

Who will pay for teachers’ broadband connection and the devices they need to use? Exactly how would parents acquire devices and obtain broadband connection for their kids, especially if they are all supposedly in school? Would sharing one device among several kids in one family actually work?

The Department of Education’s own latest enrolment figures reveal that between three to five million school-aged kids have not been enrolled. This could be due to the fatal combo of strict quarantine requirements, the economic hardship, the digital divide, and the authorities’ arrogance and negligence.

Are the Internet service providers in a position to handle the spike in bandwidth requirements in residential areas? Has government told the ISPs to provide special, discounted education deals for teachers and students?

Similar questions are also in the minds of professionals who have been “working from home” since March: Who pays for electricity, devices, and broadband connection for this new work regimen? What happens to “overtime pay” and “night differential”? If work is situated at home, would the employers be obliged to share the cost of rent for the space allotted for work? Where would the money saved from office space rentals, office Internet, and other office expenses go? Why are professionals feeling more overworked and tired than before?

What has happened to the third telco that was backed by the president? Why is there no outrage over its abject failure to start operations now? If they cannot operate now, why can’t the government even temporarily reallocate precious spectrum to the existing telcos who would need it for the astronomic growth of Internet use due to the pandemic? Are the owners of this third telco that special that they are exempt from making sacrifices or owning up to its failures?

We also have questions in behalf of the working class who we think deserve far more protection and assistance than they have been given. These are the grocery and supermarket staff, the manangs and manongs at the public markets, the gasoline station staff, those working in banks and pawnshops, the workers in food and manufacturing, those in transportation and logistics, and others we now refer to as essential workers.

Why are authorities silent on providing them the medical protection they desperately need in order to continue to safely work? Have they been regularized and their salaries and benefits increased? 

Workers are always ready to go back to work, and they have shown this since the end of the lockdowns and the reopening of businesses. Without them, the billionaires could not do business.  But why is it that up to now, there’s no system of public transport for them? Airlines have been allowed to fly again, but not open-air and well-ventilated jeepneys?

We ask the Department of Transportation: Are you using the pandemic as an alibi to phase out jeepneys and to market the so-called modern versions? Why not just tell the truth, buy out all existing jeepneys for P1,000,000 each, and give each driver an additional P100,000 for the losses they have incurred since the DOTr started implementing the phaseout? 

If the DOTr is really bent on phasing out the jeepneys, what are its immediate alternatives for commuters? So far, we see practically none. Even the MRT3 services have been suspended due to the DOTr secretary’s incompetence at ensuring employee safety. 

What’s the future for our health care system? Why are generals on top of fighting a pandemic and national health emergency? What has happened to the so-called universal health care law? 

And then there’s the mounting foreign borrowings made in our name. Aside from the stupendous amount, when would Congress start asking the right questions: What are the condionalities for each of these loans? What’s the interest rate? What do lenders get in return, apart from debt payments and interest charged to taxpayers? Would there be new taxes and new tax increases to ensure payment of these loans? Which classes would shoulder the new tax burden?

The president and his henchmen always talk tough and demand that the public partake in a sacrifice. But why is it that they appear to be lazy, inept, bumbling, and incompetent? Why can’t they show a sense of emergency, and utmost respect to the public? Why hold multiple press briefings every day? Is it to swamp the public with minute details of lots of government activity to make themselves look busy? Why does the president always address the public late at night? Why can’t he be more responsible by speaking to the nation early in the morning?

Why do we see a wife of a billionaire senator flagrantly display her wealth at this time of hardship and uncertainty? This is not about decency or morality. This is about solidarity.  Why do we not see officials, senators or police chiefs arrested and detained for violating quarantines rules? Why crack down on jeepney drivers and other citizens raising questions on how their government is using public funds, offices and personnel at this time?

With the enactment of the anti-terror law, would asking questions be a crime in the “new normal?” Our onion-skinned officials have been quick to dub activist citizens “communists” or “communist terorists”. Who could say they wouldn’t do that to any “reklamador” who refuses to be a “kunsintidor”? (Meantime, the laws supposedly prohibiting corruption, treason, abuse, and incompetence are weak or rarely enforced.)

We must continue to ask questions. Questions would lead us to answers. Knowing our problems push us closer to finding solutions. Those who wish to stop us from asking questions could be those who cause or profit from our problems and thus refuse to solve them — or they make them even worse.