The debate between maintaining our civil liberties and guarding our collective health has recently been brought to light due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Is lockdown a violation of the democratic values that our country stands for? Should we feel indignant?
These issues have caused me to reexamine several of the concerns regarding the country’s “community quarantine.” Much of the arguments that label the lockdown as dictatorial condemn the Filipino government for enforcing it on a democratic country. They liken the community quarantine to martial law, describing the threat of arrest, daily curfews and formation of a task force as redolent of the Philippines’ history of martial law.
Other concerns have risen. Many criticize the country’s lack of test kits and lack of travel restrictions for China early in this crisis. They claim that the outbreak could have been avoided altogether had the government been initially more cautious. Arguments also assert that enforcing a community quarantine restricts people’s ability to earn an income. This lockdown has effectively put everyone’s lives on hold here in Manila.
Hold off grievances
Yet, with a mutating virus proliferating, I believe holding off of our grievances toward the hastily enforced lockdown is necessary.
The talk of extrajudicial killings and oppressive martial law are all too familiar in our history. It is easy to become wrapped up in the thought that the lockdown may lead to a return to our dark past. No one who has lived through the Marcos years can fully dismiss this possibility. However, at this stage of the pandemic, a community quarantine is necessary to hamper its spread. A lockdown is one of the most, if not the most, effective ways to combat the virus. Simply trusting that the community will maintain social distancing is unreliable and far too risky. Thus, even if we believe that abiding by the lockdown is equivalent to surrendering our democratic rights, fighting a lockdown is futile as it is necessary in eliminating the virus. Under the circumstances, staying alive should be our no. 1 priority.
Responsibility as citizens
Still, we must not forget our responsibility as citizens to maintain a cautious watch on the government’s activities and direction.
Linking the government’s inefficiencies in handling the virus to criticisms on the lockdown is pointless. Rumors that checkpoints lack a standardized procedure, some without thermal scanners and test kits, all point toward the country’s weakness in dealing with this crisis.
And yes, the Philippines could have avoided a mass outbreak had they been stricter earlier on. But wouldn’t people have accused the government of overreacting? Nevertheless, the government’s inefficiencies do not negate the fact that the lockdown is vital to combating COVID-19.
Despite all of our country’s weaknesses in dealing with this crisis, the lockdown is a strength that we need to maintain.
There is also no denying that many people’s livelihoods are at risk with the lockdown. Already, over 150 new employees at Cebu Pacific have been laid off, while other companies that remain open for business are facing devastating losses.
Elmer Mendivel, a vegetable cart owner in Divisoria, has been unable to sell all of his produce. Elvira Alcantara, who sells flowers outside a Baclaran Church, has been unable to sell anything. Hundreds of factories are closing, causing thousands of families to wonder how they will survive.
The pandemic has affected the livelihood of Filipinos and the national economy. Though this is a sad truth, we cannot use this as an excuse to condemn the lockdown. In a crisis like this, health must be the priority. Frankly, not supporting the lockdown puts the national community at risk. For those who wish it didn’t happen, I implore you to think about the number of people that could have been infected, the devastation it would have caused, had the community quarantine never been put into place.
Interpreting the lockdown as a warning sign, a reminder of oppressive martial law, is valid. So is the claim that it is destroying people’s livelihoods. However, in a global health crisis such as this, a community quarantine is the country’s most necessary and effective method to combat the virus. Staying alive must be the priority—the best we can do is to rid ourselves of fears and spite so that we can replace it with prudence, positivity and an open mind. —CONTRIBUTED