Spite & false pretense
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - September 23, 2020 - 12:00am

Not to be accusatory in anyway but recent events have me starting to wonder if we are now living under a system of false pretense and spite. After losing out to the health experts regarding social distancing, the government officially declares that the minimum distance among commuters in buses and jeepneys must be one meter. Next thing you know the PNP Highway Patrol Group are out in force alongside media literally measuring the distance between passengers. As a result, the jeepneys and buses are forced to off load passengers, passengers are forced to walk or find some other way of getting to work. In the end we have even fewer passengers or riders coming on board the public utility vehicles. The question is: Was this somebody’s spiteful way of showing that the 1-meter rule if strictly applied would result in less passengers and income for drivers?

Who actually gave the order for the HPG to go out and get tough with commuters and drivers regarding the social distancing rule in PUVs? From a public relations perspective it seemed like the sweep on jeepneys and buses, where passengers were forced to get off in front of cameras, was either a self inflicted wound as bad PR or the act of a hidden hand intended to raise anger and resentment against authorities or government if not the decision to set distance between riders at 1 meter. Instead of trolls some people in government are unwittingly farming critics by their own moves. If the government’s idea was to increase mobility and commuter movement, why are they stopping, blocking or delaying the operation of the PUVs, jeepneys and UV Express? Why are jeepneys required to have the plastic barrier between passengers but buses are not? This is clearly a case of the government’s mouth saying one thing but their minds or hearts implementing a totally different agenda.

That’s where my notion or suspicion that there is “false pretense” or “false pretend” in terms of the declarations of the government with regards to COVID-19 are concerned. They talk about opening the economy but won’t open up the roads to all the available and much needed transportation. They open up stores, malls, hotels but continue to restrict the movement of the principal population of consumers and customers: the senior citizens who have the disposable income and the 20 and below children who have the appetite. They declare popular tourist destinations such as Baguio, Tagaytay, Boracay as “open” but only to their own community or region. As they say in Tagalog: “Nag bukas ka pa.” Whether you are a jeepney operator/driver, a restaurant owner, a resort or spa owner the very limited number of customers allowed to ride, eat or go in will not sustain the business. In most cases employees are being laid off already and whatever money comes in will only put food on the table but not run a business.

Even the idea of geographic quarantines has begun to get the goat or ire of people because, in the first place, it is not a case of one rule for all. If you scan people’s Facebook posts, it is evident that the people who are well-off, who have sports cars, big bikes, SUVs or may “kotseng pang mayaman” or are politically connected are generally untouched by authorities when they move outside their approved zones or regions. But the unfortunate guy on a scooter or “motor” or beat up AUV will almost surely be accosted, ticketed or turned back. I guess the reason why the PNP started talking about monitoring Facebook for quarantine violations is because it puts mud in their face every time the rich folks posted or flaunted “lunch in Tagaytay” or “fun run on the expressway” or “view from Antipolo” or “biking around Baguio.” The truth of the matter is it is physically, logistically impossible for the authorities to enforce the quarantine levels but more than that, the quarantine has clearly failed and is now forcing more and more people to push the limits and the boundaries in order to cope or preserve their health and sanity. What makes matters worse in this “false pretense” environment is that a number of officials have used their position, their work and their circumstance to take advantage of or as an excuse to do what we ordinary citizens are prohibited to do. They go on trips to the tourist spots we are prohibited from going to, they hold parties, dinners and chill out sessions or go for quick dips, bike runs and have the gall to call ordinary Filipinos “pasaway.”

For the record, I support the safety protocols of the DOH but I am opposed to the paranoia, fear pandemic and generalizations that families and households are not safe or the cause of infections, therefore it is correct to place all of us under one form or another of house arrest. Most mayors I’ve interviewed on AGENDA on Cignal TV have pointed out that their COVID-19 cases were acquired on the job in the National Capital Region or Metro Manila or because of LSIs (locally stranded individuals) who were not tested properly before being shipped out of Metro Manila. So as things go, please don’t take it against me if I have the impression that the government’s strategy against COVID-19 is nothing more than a palabas or for show or false pretend. If you want businesses or job sites to open apply the stay-in policy. If you want to reduce COVID-19 cases, then localize lockdowns, invest in better environments for people in cramped areas and build better health facilities there to contain contamination on site and not where cases erupt like chasing jumping jelly beans. If you want to revive the economy let the buyers and customers out and keep the government officials in their offices instead of making pasyal as the true pasaways!

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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