EDITORIAL - Exploiting an emergency

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Exploiting an emergency

Don’t worry, the Philippine National Police assured the public yesterday – President Duterte was simply stressing a point. The PNP, according to its chief Gen. Archie Gamboa, isn’t about to carry out any order to shoot dead those who disrupt peace and order during the enhanced community quarantine.

Gamboa said the President and commander-in-chief just wanted to emphasize the need for everyone to cooperate with measures meant to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.

President Duterte had faced the nation on Wednesday night to deliver a stern warning to the militant urban poor group Kadamay – the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap – against fomenting unrest and violence amid the difficult task of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of the Interior and Local Government had tagged Kadamay as the instigator of a protest that turned violent against the alleged lack of food aid to impoverished communities in Quezon City. The city government has denied this, stressing that its food aid to the poor has been a continuing program during the enhanced community quarantine.

Containing the spread of COVID-19 through physical distancing and community quarantine is particularly challenging in crowded areas such as informal settlements. In most cases, this means the loss of livelihoods and people’s ability to be self-sustaining.

In such cases, the government must step in. President Duterte has announced a P200-billion aid package to be dispensed over two months to the poorest households and displaced workers. The massive aid package will be augmented by assistance programs already launched by local government units.

Getting all these aid programs going as smoothly as possible is challenging enough without troublemakers fomenting violent protests and defiance of quarantine protocols. At the same time, however, law enforcers should resist provocation and practice maximum tolerance in dealing with social unrest and breaches of quarantine protocols.

The battle against COVID-19 is being fought on several fronts, and will be won only through a unified approach. Exploiting a serious national emergency to advance a different agenda is condemnable. The battle cry must be taken to heart by all: we heal as one.

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