“Shoot them Dead! “
This was the order of President Rodrigo Duterte in his late last night (April 2, 2020) pronouncement on air after more than 20 people gathered demanding for food aid in one of the barangays of Quezon City, the capital city of the Philippines.
They were violently dispersed and arrested by the policemen believing they were protesting against the local government instigated by leftist organization. At the moment, 21 persons were detained due to the violation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine.
Testimonies from women who were present during the gathering said, they were queuing for food distribution since they were not given any food aid since the first day of the lockdown. They heard that the local government will distribute food packs thus, they ran and crowded the local government office demanding food aids. They were not member of any organization.
Reactions from the Filipino communities from the different corners of the world flooded social media condemning the pronouncement of the president and calling for his ouster.
My heart breaks and my eyes are in tears of sadness, helplessness and anger.
People are hungry yet they are being punished and blamed of not obeying orders and violating quarantine protocols. Assistance from the government are not sufficient enough to compensate the daily income of families due to lockdown.
It’s a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea for the poor who have no income and can’t afford to stock foods for the week. For them, it’s a choice of going out from their houses to look for food or any means than die of hunger. They believed they have still chance not to be infected by COVID-19 when they go out from their houses.
Health workers are getting infected by COVID 19 and dying alone without the benefit of seeing their love ones. There are already ten doctors killed by the virus. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE’s) are lacking for doctors, nurses and other medical workers. Masks and alcohol are not available in the market. Testing for the infections were delayed and very limited. Hospitals were already full and already denying patients with symptoms of COVID-19.
Government reported that there are already 2, 311 cases and 96 deaths.
I don’t know if the people are in panic or the government is in panic. Local and national governments don’t have the response capacities on the massive horrendous impact among the people including themselves. In fact, earlier several government officials have their COVID-19 testing including their household several times when testing kits are not available to the public.
Staying home is very difficult for the poor population especially when government support systems for daily survival is absent or not enough. I don’t think they are in panic; they are desperate to find a living for their families.
Yes, I’m scared how long will this last. How long will our patience end? In fact, people as well as the government is already impatience. Government can’t anymore tolerate criticisms and collective actions on their inadequacies. They already resort to intimidation and harassment as means for social control.
People are already impatience due to slow delivery of food aid and compelled to go out of their way not following quarantine protocols of staying at home and social distancing. It’s already two weeks of lockdown, two weeks of helplessness and two weeks of hunger. It’s a call for survival.
The poor are confronted by getting infected of the virus, hunger and getting penalized. Yet, they dared to go out from their houses despite the danger of being infected. Now, they are in danger of being killed by government forces ordered by the president.
Will the poor people still go out from their houses? I don’t know … maybe yes, maybe no …
Only time can till.
But I strongly believe that we can overcome the crisis even when government are not competent enough to take care of its people. People helped one another, there are private sectors and women are providing foods and PPE's to medical front liners and communities. There are brave women and men who compels the government for speedy response through social media. There are people in government that are compassionate enough to provide resources. There are the science and technology scientists who are dedicated and determined to look for alternatives in combating COVID-19.
Above all, there is the technology of social media that connect people closer to one another despite physical distancing and isolation. The technology that keep people alive in this threatening time of being alive. This keep me and the whole population alive in our home quarantine for almost two weeks now and beyond###