What ‘solusyong medikal’ really means for every Filipino
MORE ADVENTUROUS - Fiel Estrella (The Philippine Star) - March 21, 2020 - 12:00am

With over a week gone by since the administration announced a curfew that would put Metro Manila in quarantine — an initially debatable decision and procedure that underwent changes as the days passed but has become no less unclear — plenty of us have had to stay in our homes and wait out what could possibly happen next. Cases of COVID-19, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization last week, have continued to rise in the Philippines; as of this writing, the number of confirmed cases is now over 200.

People are panicked and confused, and we’re beginning to take it out on each other. It doesn’t help that the socalled solutions we’re dealing with are questionable at best and might be bringing more risk to the citizens who are vulnerable and not equipped to overcome such a disease. After all, when faced with a monumental health-related threat, wouldn’t your first response be to consult and work with scientists and medical professionals, instead of imposing a curfew with no concrete plan of action?

In an effort to bring these possible shortcomings to light and open a discussion for more efficient solutions for all, activists launched the hashtag #SolusyongMedikalHindiMilitar on Twitter — and as expected, it quickly became a heated debate. One side calls for the government to take action toward containing and eliminating the virus by issuing safety precautions at militaryled security checkpoints and making sure the military personnel are given proper medical equipment that would help prevent COVID-19 from further spreading. The other side is highlighting Filipinos’ “need for discipline,” which is what they say justifies the strict military presence. (As if the Philippines is the only country with this problem, when people on the Western hemisphere continue to populate beaches and shrug off the advisory not to travel.)

Online, it’s not hard to find very privileged viewpoints telling people to “just stay home and watch Netflix” and calling them “matigas ang ulo” if they happen to have the audacity to go to their jobs lest they lose up to a month’s worth of their salary. Most people still need to make a living. Most people don’t have drivers and maids hoarding products and risking getting infected at the local S&R for them. There are so many lives and livelihoods at stake because of this sudden standstill we’re facing. Most people can’t stay at home and still have a hefty bank account to fall back on at the end of the month  if they even have homes or bank accounts.

Not all of us have the luxury of puttingour lives on hold.

And with public transportation forciblyshut down, and the way the quarantine has been put into effect, these people end up stranded with no way of getting home, and they’re forced to walk just to make ends meet, or get the medication they need, or run an errand for their employer. They’re made to stand in long lines or crowds with very little space  the exact opposite of safe when you’re facing a viral disease. When we say solusyong medikal, it was never about telling the military personnel to go home so health workers could stand in their place. It’s about support: proper funding and provisions, continued research and updates, a show of trust on both sides. Scientists from the University of the Philippines’ National Institutes of Health and the Philippine Genome Center are hard at work developing kits for testing COVID-19, and they need supplies and financial support to be able to validate the kits and make them accessible.

A fundraising drive has been set up to allow them to continue their work,m and similar campaigns have been put up for state hospitals, poor families, and citizens whose livelihoods are being affected by the quarantine but thereshouldn’t have to be, if there had been enough allotment in the national budget that would have allowed us (all of us) to face this crisis with a little more dignity.

The thing is, we’ve had two monthsor so to strategize and prepare to defendourselves against a threat that hasbecome a full-blown health crisis. In that time, we could have been better informed about the virus and how to prevent it. If the government was takingthe threat seriously at the time, then the citizens probably would have, as well. We shouldn’t have had to wait until the cases were rapidly multiplying to act. Similar privileged rhetoric has told activists to “shut up and cooperate with the government” — which is a little ridiculous to think about, becauseyou can practice social distancing and avoid being a threat to yourself and others while expressing your opinion on how this crisis can be handled better. You can continue fighting for humane solutions,especially since we’re dealing with an outbreak; you can keep asking for data and better informed plans.

We’ve shown in just a few days how ordinary people who don’t even have a  lot to their names can come together andhelp each other in an amazing show of empathy and kindness — but it shouldn’t be up to us to collect supplies and provide financial support. In an ideal situation, we should simply be paying it forward and following the actions of the people considered leaders.

During these times, the last thing we need is a false sense of “peace and order” due to fear brought about by authority or an abuse of power. What we can benefit from, instead, are trust, security, and encouragement — and to see our rights as workers and human beings in effect, because nobody’s health matters more than anyone else’s.

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