Effective leadership

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

Starting today, the entire National Capital Region (NCR) is back to Alert Level-3 until Jan. 15. But that could either go up to a higher level of restriction before it gets down again. From our experience in the past, it usually takes a longer period for the situation to improve after a surge of cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection. As we feared earlier, we have seen this resurgence of the pandemic at the NCR after seeing the back-to-usual mode of people a few weeks before we celebrated Christmas season.

The tighter restrictions imposed under Alert Level-3 came to effect upon the instance of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID). As the chief pandemic watcher, the Department of Health (DOH) immediately raised the Alert warning at the NCR.

Since the pandemic outbreak started way back in January 2020, the NCR have been the “hot zone” or the so-called “ground zero” of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines. It all started with the Wuhan strain of the COVID-19 that reached our shores when hundreds of Chinese nationals flew here to spend their Lunar New Year. From then on, the COVID-19 strains mutated into deadlier, if not more transmissible variants.

The Philippines saw its COVID-19 pandemic breaching to more than 2.8 million cases cumulatively at the closing days of the year 2021 just past. Sadly, more than 51,504 people have died for the past two years caused by COVID-related complications.

From Alpha variant, the unseen vector of foreign variants entered the Philippines one after the other. Named in Greek alphabet, the most transmissible that arrived here was the Delta variant. Lately, the DOH traced at least 10 cases of the Omicron variant already here in our country. In fact, President Rodrigo Duterte now calls these foreign variants as COVID “mutants” now proliferating in our country.

Being the premier port of entry to all returning overseas Filipinos and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and foreigners with existing visas as well, and the fact that most number of hospitals and quarantine facilities dedicated to COVID-19 cases are located here at the NCR, Metro Manila will always naturally have the highest cases of COVID-19 infection.

The latest surge happens even after the IATF decided to pour the bulk of procured and donated vaccines at the NCR being the “gravity center” of COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, almost all the NCR areas reported up to 90% to even over 100% vaccination administered in their respective areas.

Most of the patients being admitted at NCR hospitals were reportedly by families who got the COVID-19 infection after traveling together in out-of-town trips, or attending in social gathering. And they even include their children ages two to 14. However, the more worrisome reports were that some of them have gotten full anti-COVID-19 jabs while others even had booster shots already. Thanks to vaccinations, most of the latest COVID-19 infections were mild cases only.

After succeeding to bring down COVID cases to three-digit numbers, what tirggered this latest surge?

Conceivably, I must say, the build-up of COVID infection began in October.

After filing their certificates of candidacies for the May 2022 national and local elections, we saw how people ignored health protocols in the political campaign sorties. Then typhoon “Odette” happened months leading up to a national election will soon spell another surge later on. In 2009 when typhoon “Ondoy” hit Metro Manila, political campaigns were “put on hold” and candidates began their own efforts in bringing relief aid to those affected.

For days, social media feeds have been filled with comparisons on where our presidentiables are, what they are doing, and what type of efforts they are launching to help victims of the typhoons. Most candidates post their efforts on the ground, areas they visited, and people they met.

What caught my eye, however, was a post by Vice President Leni Robredo. She started with posting the deluge of volunteers and donations that arrived in her campaign headquarters, now converted into a massive relief hub. But what caught my eye was her photos during different relief operations.

A public interest lawyer before, photos showed Mrs. Robredo was already involved in typhoon relief operations as early as 2006 when typhoon “Reming” hit the country. As a member of the alternative law group SALIGAN, they put up drinking water for the “Reming” victims. In her photo gallery was the former Camarines Sur Congresswoman on the ground of the damaged areas hit by typhoons “Glenda” and “Nona” in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Fast forward. The Office of the Vice President (OVP) responded to more numerous disasters since 2016 – typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions showing her track record in responding to disasters.

Unlike her rivals in next year’s presidential race, the OVP Christmas video message released this year featured testimonials of those involved in the relief efforts. Majority showed average Filipinos pitching in to help their countrymen in their time of need. Unlike traditional ads, VP Leni chose to feature not herself but the work done by her volunteers in their relief hub in Katipunan Ave. Quezon City.

Again, I reiterate, this is not your conventional Christmas message from a candidate. VP Leni was only heard toward the end of the video and only for a few seconds saying that the bayanihan, empathy, and volunteerism she had witnessed should be the Philippines we should all aspire for. VP Leni has been showing us the kind of leader she can be. Someone on the ground, responds at the right time, and, most of all, empathizes with the afflicted. At the very least, this is the kind of governance we can expect from her.

We often hear that Filipinos are resilient, that we can weather any challenge put before us. But aren’t we tired of having to endure this time and again? If we couple resilience with an effective leader, we can truly say that any storm, earthquake, disaster, or COVID surge is no match to resiliency of the Filipino people.


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